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I have a hypothesis that rhythm games with original soundtracks will always have some of the best music in gaming. I'm not spread nearly wide enough in the genre to provide a comprehensive analysis in support of this idea (hence "hypothesis"), but this week I stumbled upon an OST that fit the criteria and failed to disprove my suspicions. Mad Rat Dead features the work of several artists, but the only name I'd heard of before was that of Camellia, known for plenty of things but by me specifically from his work with Toby Fox and Temmie Chang on Dweller's Empty Path. My introduction to this soundtrack came in the form of a full soundtrack video, and the first track featured was by this composer.

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My interest sufficiently captured, I proceeded to locate the soundtrack proper and investigate it more carefully. The music's style is consistent in its heavy beat and high tempo focus, and in little else. I get the impression that each stage chain has a specific genre theme (first several level tracks all seemed to have an electro swing influence, while later level tracks featured different styles), challenging the composers to get creative with their compositions. The following tracks contain use of oriental folk instruments, RPG orchestra, and and the "supported piano."

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Finally, I'll leave off with one of the boss battle themes. These are essentially just curtain fire challenges with minimal combat, and as such the music isn't that different from the platforming BGM. This one stands out particularly, however, being associated with one of the more pivotal moments in the game's story, and appropriately capturing the mood of the events. Comparisons may be made (and have been) to a certain other theme in VGM with a similar tone and progression structure; I leave it to you to determine if this was a coincidence or not.

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Getting this out of the way first . . .

There is a degree of effectiveness to utilizing a consistent musical style in a soundtrack for the purpose of worldbuilding, especially when the story's setting is significantly distant from what would be familiar to the audience. Sci-fi and fantasy settings frequently benefit from this methodology, to the point where some sounds are culturally identifiable with these genres by association. This is a concept I've been appreciating of late, especially while recently listening to the soundtrack of Dust: An Elysian Tail.

I actually know very little about this game, and as such most of what I say is based purely upon my experience with the music. This first track, which I gather backdrops a hub-type area, it suitably ambient to promote a peaceful atmosphere without having the homely feel that usually characterizes these sorts of themes. One thematic aspect of this soundtrack is its expansive feel, characterizing a world that is meant to feel large and open; this theme needs to impart the idea of "passing through" to maintain that feeling.

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BTW, this track was composed by Alexander Brandon, known for the Deus Ex soundtrack, and is comparable to those compositions.

For the majority of the game, the music is far more upbeat and high in energy, presumably to accompany frequent combat. Yet even the most exciting tracks preserve that awe-like tone, maintaining the world's characterization through each new area and situation.

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Boss themes may occasionally be an exception to a video game's soundtrack consistency, since they necessarily put you in a situation that is out of the norm. The best soundtracks, however, will work to incorporate the established style into these tracks as well, using the audio to fortify these encounters as part of the world and the story rather than existing outside of them.

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By this point, hopefully the existence of this game's stylistic theme is evident and identifiable. It should be noted that choosing to have a musical consistency in your soundtrack will strengthen its worldbuilding, but will also come with its own risks should you desire to do something different at some point for any reason. If you break your own consistency, you jeopardize the characterization you given the world and risk damaging the audience's ability to identify with it. Ultimately, there is one track in Dust that I believe takes this risk, though considered carefully and likely accomplished without too much damage. Nonetheless, I struggle with this track, as the inconsistencies seem to me unnecessary. But it is also important to understand that this in no way lessens the quality of this composition.

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As a whole, this is a very good soundtrack. I believe it apt for comparison to Ori and the Blind Forest, which bares several similarities on a conceptual level.

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  • 2 weeks later...

I'm late.

Celeste is one of several soundtracks I featured on the thread fairly early on with far less commentary then they deserved. This game makes very strong use of leitmotif manipulation to convey its themes in the music. For example:

The motif for main-character Madeline's determination/climbing efforts is established in the level one track First Steps. The tone of the piece is positive, almost cheery, with moments here and there of reservation (especially right at the end). The motif itself is in a major key, but continually fails to resolve, always favoring its dominant note over its tonic, and is arranged with a slight stutter to its progression.

It's important to note that this motif is not technically Madeline's theme, nor necessarily (though partially) that of the specific obstacle of climbing the mountain.

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I used First Steps in the first feature, but it's indispensable to the point.

 

The second level is about the main character's doubts and fears, especially regarding the task at hand. The earlier motif reappears, but in an altered form. The original stutters are now full stops, favoring thirds and seconds from the tonic, and what's left has been transposed into a minor key. The tone is heavily somber, and even slightly hostile in its progression (and that's before the transition into its faster tempo form).

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As is the way of story, it's not till near the end of the game that the primary character conflict comes to climax, culminating in an intense battle accompanied by a third variation of the motif. This is actually both previous iterations literally colliding with each other, although the negative version remains in emphasis for the moment.

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Following this sequence, the conflict is resolved, allowing for the game's finale to take place. The music for this level is a true rectification of the two versions, returning to the positive tone of the original while tempering it with a new emotional range from the minor key variant. The pauses remain, but are more consistent, presented as reflective rather than fearfully hesitant. Unique to this iteration of the motif, however, is the consistent return to tonic that gives the motif its musical resolution.

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Even without details, the theme of the story is communicated through this leitmotif.

I might make a month's theme out of revitalizing old features, but I'm not sure yet.

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I was looking back at those previously mentioned old features, and realized I'd edited most of them to include more tracks some time ago. There's only a couple exceptions, specifically from the short-lived double features, but I may as well take care of them now.

I normally prefer soundtracks that convey aspects of the accompanying story, either by setting the mood for certain events or by transference of themes via leitmotifs. However, I can also appreciate when the primary purpose of the music is to assist in worldbuilding, also done by mood and leitmotif. Hollow Knight is an example of the latter; its music focuses almost entirely on the characterization of the world you're exploring rather than the characters you interact with. All non-combat themes are ambient and slightly melancholy, as befitting a long-dead kingdom, and the entire soundtrack is composed with minimal instrumentation, presenting a simpler sound then one would expect from orchestral arrangements. Beyond that, each area theme is customized to influence perception:

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From the morose introduction of the deserted Dirtmouth,

to the majestic serenity of the Queen's Gardens,

from the ominous spaciousness in the caves of Crystal Peak,

to the almost comparatively goofy yet still melancholy tones of the Fungal Wastes.

 

This is just scratching the surface, of course, and doesn't even touch on the battle themes (though you can get a taste of them from the end of Crystal Peaks).

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An unfortunate aspect of leitmotif study is the occasional guessing game one must participate in to determine what the theme represents. Most often it's made clear enough to understand provided you're looking for it, but some of the best usages of the technique are much more difficult to evaluate due to subtle usage, over and under usage, and disguised application. I've had several encounters with supposed patterns in a soundtrack that I can't determine the meaning of (or often the existence of a meaning), and sometimes the only way to be sure of a correct interpretation is the confirmation of the composer. Being that this can rarely be depended on, speculations will likely remain as just that.

Today is the six-year anniversary of Undertale, which bears one of the most infamous video game soundtracks of all time. All music in the game was written by the game's creator Toby Fox, and he is acknowledged as a master composer. Undertale if full of obvious leitmotifs, and some of them are easy to understand. There are quite a few, however, that I'm personally unsure about. Of these, my personal favorite is the "Home motif."

The earliest most obvious feature of this motif can be different depending on how you play. If, for any reason, you decide to close the game before reaching the end of the first area, then you will be met with the game's Start Menu upon opening it again.

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By all appearances, this is a very simple and unassuming track; as you progress through the game, you have the ability to add characters to the menu, and the music fills in as you do so.

If you reach the end of the first area without closing the game, then you will hear the theme of the tutorial character's Home before listening to the menu track. This is a much more dynamic usage of the motif incorporated into a larger piece, and possibly may be considered the leitmotifs origin.

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Whether or not a player realizes the existence of the leitmotif may affect his perceptions concerning the theme. It continues to appear in the game, most notably in a relatively random event associated with a variety TV show that functions as the Underground's primary source of entertainment.

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At this point, the leitmotif is associated with several differing contexts with limited straightforward connection. In what is possibly it's most relevant feature, it makes up one-half of the game's title theme, during an event in which the emotional motivation of the currently perceived antagonist (primary obstacle?) is divulged.

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In conclusion, I submit that I consider this the theme of the Underground's residents, or perhaps more accurately the "life" of the Underground. The story told to the player through Undertale is communicated by residents as their own, the theme plays multiple times associated with their media, Home is notably the first example of proper habitation, and the menu will become more detailed as you recruit residents of the Underground to it. All that being said, I'm not confident in my evaluation; part of me suspects I'm reading too much into it. I should note the likelihood that some "leitmotifs" featured in the game serve questionable thematic purpose, such as the "Ghost Fight motif," which is associated with three related characters and one unrelated character. Fox has been known to repurpose motifs for multiple reasons beyond thematic story telling, so I leave it up to you whether or not you share my interpretation.

Edit: The motif also features in Once Upon a Time, which is a cutscene track and more difficult for me to contextualize. It also appears in Hopes and Dreams, but there's lots of motif references in that piece; it's more meant to be a round-up-retrospective-turned-boss-theme.

Edited by Ken Hisuag

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Starting this week, I'm changing my weekly posting from Wednesday to Tuesday. I don't typically have much time available on Wednesdays of late, so this will be a lot easier for me.

That said, it's about time I covered the second disc of Okami! I am consistently impressed by the volume of music this game has. My current style of review doesn't fit very well with my listening strategy for this soundtrack, but it's worth that sacrifice in my opinion.

Princess Sakuya's Theme works well as a comparison piece, by which to better estimate the other styles present. It's what may be called a standard Oriental folk composition, using traditional instrumentation for a serene sound commonly associated with the genre.

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With a slight adjustment of focus in instrumentation, Ushiwaka's Appearance invokes a sense of beauty and awe, unique from the previous track but retaining many of the same characteristics.

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Tsutamaki Ruins, on the other hand, presents a very different mood. The instrument balance is changed around to create a slower, deeper sounding piece with a most foreboding effect. While far less active than the previous tracks, it remains noteworthy for the contrast in tone accomplished within the same genre.

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Somewhere between these parts of the spectrum is the dynamic blend of Kusanagi Village II. While it's more comparable in style and instrumentation to the first two tracks, I detect influence of mood reminiscent of the third track that gives this piece a broader, more complex personality than any of the previous pieces.

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Finally, while many personally encountered examples of games committed to a specific musical style may sacrifice it for more intense and energetic genres in their combat music, Okami remains consistent throughout, allowing for some amazing and relatively rare compositions. I considered between Ushiwaka's Dance ~ Playing with Ushiwaka and Red Helmet's Extermination as potential examples, which sound very similar to each other and even share a few motifs. I've eventually decided the former has ever so slightly better progression out of the two.

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Drakengard 3 one of the more controversial games i've ever heard about (and unfortunately PS3 exclusive so u have to emulate it unless u have a console) i watched it whole and do not regret a single minute of it even though it's such a bloodbath game is great (at least in my opinion) but ost isn't great, it's godlike (it's same series as nier which most of you possibly know/heard about just alternate world and happens in distant past)

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I've had Chicory: A Colorful Tale on the back burner for a while now, and I've finally taken the time to listen through it. Raine's skill and style has continued to evolve since Farewell; Chicory showcases a much wider range of instrumentation than the previous projects, without loosing anything of the dynamic arrangement that characterized them. I haven't looked into the game itself, so my commentary will be limited; but I believe I've picked out an acceptable showcase.

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The Town of Luncheon, whatever other purpose it may serve, features the game's primary leitmotif, i.e. the main theme. It is perhaps intentional that the track serves as a perfect foundation for estimation. The soundtrack as a whole leans toward this more laid-back and light-hearted tone . . . mostly.

There's an impressive balance of energy across the soundtrack. Dinners, The Big City is a bouncy jazz piece, not quite big-band but emulating the style. It's also an example of the main theme being adjusted for other pieces.

In the other directing, we have the calmer reflective tone of Chicory's Theme. This track features a unique technique that I have yet to notice outside of Raine's work, that being the audible recording of the piano's mechanical noises to accompany the piece. I'm surprised at how effective this seems to be at making the arrangement feel more intimate.

As an example of the diverse instrumentation, my personal favorite track is Supper Woods, featured surprising early in the soundtrack. Leading with a harpsichord, backed by maracas, carried with flutes and accompanied by all manner of orchestral ensemble, it's quite a contrast to the relatively consistent instrumentation of Celeste.

In case there was any doubt as to the carried over influence, however, the earlier sounds and styles can be found in what I take to be combat themes. I also detect elements similar to Pigstep.

 

 

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Despite being fully aware of F.I.S.T.: Forged in Shadow Torch before its release, I had not anticipated it to have particularly noteworthy music. I was exceedingly surprised with the impression my initial listenings left me with; the soundtrack is full of powerful compositions of what I believe is called progressive rock with elements of cinematic orchestra and (possibly) some occasional flamenco folk.

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Additionally, there's a few tracks that deviate from this general style and do something unique, not only contrasting but happening to be impressive compositions in their own light.

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While I haven't much music theory concerning this feature, I think the quality of compositions testifies to itself this time.

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Rather than a full soundtrack feature, this week I'm just highlighting a single track that caught my attention. I've never watched a James Bond movie, but I imagine this is what the songs from that series sounds like.

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I tend to be more critical of English songs, simply because the lyrical meaning is more immediately perceptible. Content and context are major components of this consideration; in this particular example, the song contextualizes itself.

I'm actually just stalling for a week while I work on a particularly difficult feature I've been putting off all year.

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At the beginning of this year, there was one and only one game I was anticipating the release of for its music. That game was Cyber Shadow. I had been anticipating it since before it was delayed from its initial late-2020 release into early-2021, ever since seeing its trailer. It seemed to be similar in style to The Messenger, one of my favorite soundtracks, with the promise of Jake Kaufman's assistance in production.

The game came out. The soundtrack didn't. At this point, I don't think it ever will.

I am committed to featuring this soundtrack before the year is over. However, the circumstances surrounding its availability combined with my lack of interest for the game itself makes it difficult to do it the justice it probably deserves. I've been hoping something would change, but I don't want to put this off any longer.

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Arguably the best song in the game, Geothermal Towers (version 1?) is one of the only tracks to have a properly balanced standalone upload. Expect the other tracks in this feature to be of poor audio quality; if anyone would like to here a proper version, they are advised to locate the complete gamerip upload.

This was the track that attracted me to the game in the first place. The melody is strong, and it makes full use of its accompaniment without overcomplicating it. This sets the style of the composer (Enrique Martin, for anyone wondering) for the rest of the project.

Next is Reactor (version 3? I'm not really sure how this works . . .). Still a relatively simple track, but spreading its melody and counter-melodies across different layers to add dynamic progression.

I've included Outskirts Fauna (version 1) as a sort of contrast, this being a more low-energy piece to the high-energy of the previous tracks. This is accomplished without technically changing the dynamic quality; there are still the same number of layers, and it works off the same structure. Yet the difference in mood is evident nonetheless.

Finally, one of the boss battles in the game. I've gone with version 2 over version 1 simply to spread out the feature across the whole soundtrack; both versions use the same melody with only minute changes to the style (though the tone shift that results is well accomplished).

 

I could make a lot of comparisons from this soundtrack; the names Uematsu, Nishiki and even Shimomura occurred to me quite often, though never as particularly strong similarities. There's something very "classical VGM" about it, but in the sense of having been slightly modernized. Altogether, it's a good soundtrack, and I only wish it was more readily available.

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Last year I implied I might feature Doom Eternal. Then I forgot about it. Now I've remembered it.

I can't pretend this is "my kind" of soundtrack. A majority of the tracks lack any kind of satisfying progression; I strongly suspect this factor to be the secret instigator behind hasty critiques against this genre of music (e.g., "this isn't music"). That being said, there remains a recognizable complexity to these arrangements. The composer had a predetermined goal, and it was met to the best of his ability. I can understand that, and appreciate it in that context. I even find I can enjoy it at times.

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Two months ago, I determined to feature Deltarune immediately after its third anniversary, as a nod to it having come out three years after Undertale. As chapter two was not out at that time, its release changed my approach to this endeavor significantly. With a better understanding of what to expect in the future, I feel it would be prudent to put off any features thereof until full release, so as to have a better understanding of what leitmotifs were actually important. But that would mean sitting on it for potentially six more years (and who knows where we'll all be then?), so instead I'll do something now and see how things go.

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The first chapter was heavily reliant upon the "don't forget" motif, named for the end-credits vocal track. It pervades so strongly, that I initially took it to be the primary thematic motif of the game.

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However, it's almost completely missing from the second chapter. The "queen" motif is present in quite a few tracks, but always for story related reasons.

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Meanwhile, a select couple of leitmotifs from the previous game make a return, though with questionable relevance.

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Overall, I'm not really sure where this is going. Part of me wonders how much changes behind the scenes over time. For now, it's impossible to know.

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I need to make a post about something I discovered yesterday.

Not many people remix Monster Hunter Music. In fact, a number of MH remixes come from Capcom themselves. And yesterday is when I learned about the Monster Hunter 10th Anniversary album released by them. This album finally satisfies my yearning for Monster Hunter remixes of the quality I would expect from Touhou doujin circles, and does a number of other things to put my mind to rest:

1: This album proves my point that yes, Monster Hunter does have incredible potential for arrangements. There just needs to be people making them!
2: This album finally gives me a point of reference for what MH music in smash could sound like.
3: This existence of this album is satisfactory enough to fill the void left by the lack of the above two things.

And boy, what a diverse and amazing album it is. I can't just choose a favourite track to feature, I need to post a bunch of them, because they're all so good. Also, link to the full playlist here.

EDIT: It's actually two different albums of 10 songs each, both released for the 10th anniversary. The first 10 songs in the playlist are from the "Self Cover" album, remixes by the original composers, and the following 10 are from the "Tribute" album, remixes by video game composers from other companies / series.

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Now to showcase a large number of highlight tracks. I may or may not have put just over half of the total songs here...

 

 

 

I need the lyrics to this version of Proof of a Hero. I'm sure it's proper Japanese and not MH language.

 

 

You thought I would make a Monster Hunter post without featuring Zinogre's theme? (now as a medley with another theme!)

 

 

 

The (second) album finishes with another amazing version of Proof of a Hero. I want to hear this in whatever the next Smash game is.

 

While the tracks in these albums are more than enough to satisfy me, it does also make me a little sad that Capcom may never release something like this again. I can only cross my fingers for 2024...

Edited by buskerdog
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Last month, Pascal Michael Stiefel released a new soundtrack, and I was excited! Circuit Superstars is composed of a variety of synthwave styles themed toward different periods of the genre's development. I don't know how well they suit the game they were created for (the video I looked at must have had the BGM turned off), but they stand perfectly well on their own. I can definitely detect familiar tones in the arrangements, and I'm glad Stiefel is still composing.

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We are in the midst of "the holiday season," and times are busy. Somehow, I am still here!

No Straight Roads as a game is themed around the contrast between the golden age of rock and the more modern forms of electronic music, and its soundtrack bears testimony to a thorough understanding of both. Multiple tracks have been remixed into both styles as a demonstration of the comparison, while other tracks function as a rectification between the two. There's also a lot of nuances to the arrangements, but I haven't had the time to really dive into them, so I won't mention them at this time. Worth looking into if anyone's interested, though!

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For clarification, this first track is intentionally not representative of the rock/electronic emphasis the majority of the soundtrack focuses on. I'm using it because it demonstrates the foundations often built upon in the remixes, and thus serves as the perfect introduction. Also it happens to be my favorite track so . . .

 

 

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For no particular reason, I chose to check out Owlboy's soundtrack for this week. I've heard very little about either the game or its music beyond basic recommendation, so I didn't have much by way of expectation going into it. Unexpectedly, I found it comparable to the music of Will of the Wisps and Hollow Knight, being deep with worldbuilding and story development. Notable that I struggled to understand this for those two soundtracks without further contextualizing them to their games, while with this soundtrack I find it immediately evident. I'm not sure if that's indicative of true clarity, or if I've simply become more familiar with its marks.

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This track showcases some of the range of mood featured, as well as the primary style of the soundtrack as a whole. Note the stressed beginning, smooth transition into a more heroic air, and unresolved ending.

Perhaps the most immediately evident difference in my earlier comparisons is the wider range of instrumentation and styles incorporated in this soundtrack. This track uses a chiptune lead, backed by and fallen back to orchestra.

On the more intense side of the emotional spectrum, several of what I presume to be combat themes showcase an excellent use of organized discord.

Meanwhile, the majority of the soundtrack relies more on majestic and open arrangements. Most of these are probably ambient themes, though a few may be more event focused.

A final important note is the likelihood of dynamic composition in these tracks. I infer from certain transitions that more than one in-game "track" may be considered as a single composition and thus collapsed into these official releases. These tracks are often able to seamlessly transition in-game between moods for different sub-areas or events, adding to the immersion of the scene.

 

Overall, I'm extremely impressed with this OST. I can't think of another time when the music alone has imparted to me a desire to experience the game it was made for.

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  • 2 weeks later...

The composer for Eastward advertised his soundtrack as "a mashup of genres, palettes and moods," which description I found to be entirely apt and accurate. I first encountered this soundtrack through the game's trailer, and was immediately sure the full album was something I'd want to check out. My initial impressions were strongly reminiscent of FEZ, which overtime adjusted to comparisons with Celeste. The music isn't specifically like anything, but blends around several styles that seemed vaguely familiar at all times. Being that this game emphasized itself as nostalgic in its advertising, I presume this effect to be intended, and thus accomplished magnificently. Expect this to be one of my top soundtrack of the year.

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I found out God of War (2018) is coming out on Steam, and I am hyped! I figured I would make a feature about it, and was surprised by how short the soundtrack is. The game is very cinematic in nature, and I infer that the music was saved for the more emotionally impactful moments, thus requiring less than I would normally expect from a project of this size.

In consequence of this being more like a film soundtrack than standard VGM, the motifs are somewhat few and leitmotifs even fewer. There are, however, two major leitmotifs worth noting, both of which feature in this first track.

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The first and most pervasive motif I consider "the theme of the journey." It often plays over important moments relating to the motivation behind the characters' travels, especially when characters are discussing said motivations. The second motif is less prevalent here, but easily recognizable as the main theme of the series. This presumably relates to the inner conflict of the main character, which tends to run parallel to the journey without being its particular motivation.

Emotionally impactful moments also include times of tension, and the themes for these parts are closer to standard VGM. The progression relies less on external influence, allowing for development of a unique motif.

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I can't find a way to talk about this last track without spoilers, but I simply cannot leave it out. It is arguably the most compelling piece in the soundtrack, reinforcing the scenes that accompany it as part of the storytelling.

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It is the week of Christmas, and thus the final feature of the year (not counting the round up next week). The year started with Rivals of Aether, and with the recent finalization of Super Smash Bros. Ultimate, it seems fitting to end the year with that. There's a lot of music in SSBU; in addition to original pieces and remixes, many tracks are imported from other games. This includes tracks from previous titles in the Super Smash Bros. series, along with remixes from them. However, for the purposes of this feature, I am only considering tracks composed or remixed specifically for Ultimate.

Time is short this week (for obvious reasons), so I can't go into the considerations behind these picks as I'd like to. There's quite a few of them, though; I've tried to pick out the best examples, both of the pervading style, and of the scope of representation accomplished.

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In what may be my final posts this year, I hereby commence the OGM 2021 round-up! I'll split it into two posts this year, simply because I dread potential formatting problems with the record. For this post, I'm focusing on my personal top five video game soundtracks of the year, though there's a few "honorable mentions" I'd like to address first.

Friday Night Funkin' has managed to endure, and I'd be remiss not to commend it for the many uniquely styled pieces it has inspired. I didn't rank it mainly because most of my favorite songs are from outside the official game, and ultimately it doesn't quite measure up to some of my other options. I'd recommend Overwrite from the "X Event Mod," Manifest from the "Vs. Sky Mod," and Triple Trouble from the "Vs. Sonic.EXE Mod."

Monster Hunter Rise was difficult not to rank, but I didn't feel I was capable of doing so properly. Ideally, a new entry in a well-established series should be estimated against its predecessors for innovation (dangerous word . . . oh well). Despite being far more familiar with Monster Hunter now than I was a year ago, I am certainly still lacking the experience necessary to do this justice. That being said, my limited dips into this soundtrack turned up Domain of Dust and Desolation, Where Wyverns Go to Die, and Stage of the Strong (also see buskerdog's four part feature from July).

Finally, I'm sure everyone's aware that Deltarune Chapter 2 came out this year. The quality of Toby Fox's compositions need not be argued for, but I am conflicted over whether to consider this a 2021 release. As Deltarune is officially considered to be a single entity, each chapter may technically be viewed as some form of DLC or, perhaps more accurately, updates to an "early access" title. In any other situation, I would prefer to consider the earliest release date as the official year, thus disqualifying any music added in later years. However, Deltarune currently advertises itself as a demo, which might be considered a different category entirely. For now, it's more trouble than it's worth; nonetheless, A CYBER'S WORLD?, Pandora Palace, and BIG SHOT are all amazing pieces (as are Smart Race, Attack of the Killer Queen, Lost Girl, Cyber Battle . . .)

That being said, my number five is an early access release. Also, I coincidentally haven't played any of these games, same as last year.

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#5: 30XX
Very reminiscent of Rivals of Aether, but still distinct in its bombastic style, these chiptunes have been a favorite listen of mine since early this year, and I was fairly certain at the time it would end up here. More tracks are being added over time, including additional remix variants, and I look forward to seeing how far it gets.

 

Should I put all of them in one box, or separate them out?

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#4: F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch
This one surprised me. The blend of genres wasn't simply stylistic, it was incorporated into the intended emotional affect in a way more common in professional cinema than the game industry. This musical experience will be sticking with me for quite some time.

 

Now I feel obligated to put some text in between boxes to preserve the aesthetic.

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#3: Eastward
I said this would be on here, didn't I? The potential lack of a recognizable consistency in musical style is more than made up for with the variety of moods captured in relatively limited genres with quality motif compositions. I'm not sure the main theme does justice to the whole, though . . .

 

I always default to the main theme for these, even if I've used it in a previous feature. But what about games without main themes?

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#2: Everhood
This game is really weird at times, and the music is part of that. Nonetheless, the range of styles means you're likely to find something if you dig deep enough (and it goes deep). The compositions are of deceptively high quality; a lot of thought went into these tracks, despite what initial perceptions might lead you to believe. This isn't necessarily a good example, either, but it's the closest thing to a main theme this game has.

 

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Spoiler

#1: Chicory: A Colorful Tale
Raine was really busy this year, what with Lani's Trek, Deltarune, and even another full game I haven't covered yet. This title showcases the development in style that has taken place since Celeste, and has established Raine as one of my favorite composers.

 

There y'all have it! If anyone else is interested in doing their own rankings, I'd love to see them!

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This is the OGM record for 2021. Let it be noted there was a Binding of Isaac feature from the late account of Garison DeCrick that I failed to record before it disappeared.

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Features (in order of posting):

Rivals of Aether – Customization, Fight and Flight, Lighting Pandemonium, Full Steam VENGENCE!!, Main Menu, Luna Ascension EX, The Earthen Division

Super Smash Land – Tower of Heaven Stage

Tower of Heaven – Luna Ascension, Indignant Divinity, Luna Ascension ~ Full Moon Remix

Ori and the Will of the Wisps – Ku’s First Flight, Dashing and Bashing, Sanctuary in the Glades, Escaping a Foul Presence

Celeste Classic 2: Lani’s Trek – lani’s trek

Axiom Verge – Vital Tide, Inexorable, Cellular Skies

Ys VIII: Lacrimosa of Dana – Dana

Tengami – Crimson Leaves, Frozen in Time, The Passage

Roly-Polys no Nanakorobi Yaoki – Main Theme

Friday Night Funkin’ – Fresh, M.I.L.F., Roses

Epic Mickey 2 – Pirate W Boss v01

30XX – Hollows (Echocave), Ancient Circuitry (Deepverse Boss), Penance (Penumbra), 30XX (Main Theme)

Dandara: Trials of Fear – Once a Beautiful Horizon, Hidden in Logic, Hidden Thoughts Beyond the Crimson Maw, Weight of a Doubt

Red Alert 2 – Hell March 2, Grinder, Motorized, Junk

The Witcher – Tavern at the End of the World

The Witcher 2 – A Tavern on the Riverbank

The Witcher 3 – Another Round for Everyone

Octopath Traveler: Champions of the Continent – Otis’s Battle Theme, Tatorock’s Battle Theme

Super Smash Bros. Melee – Menu 1, Menu 2, Big Blue, Jungle Japes, All-Star Rest Area, Fountain of Dreams, Pokemon Stadium

Len’en 00 ~ Book of the Café – Trailer theme

Puyo Puyo Chronicle – Nebula Step (Instrumental), Nebula Step, Rapid Carefree Advice

Puyo Puyo! 15th Anniversary – I’m the Greatest Ever, In the Middle of Stroll

Puyo Puyo!! 20th Anniversary – Rapid Carefree Advice (Instrumental), Theme of Puyo Puyo

Pokemon Black & White – N’s Room

Kid Icarus: Uprising – Dark Pit’s Theme, Viridi’s theme, The Seafloor Palace, Aurum Palace, Palutena’s Temple, Lightning Battle, Thunder Cloud Temple

Manifold Garden – Petrichor

Guilty Gear XX – Nothing Out of the Ordinary, Blue Water Blue Sky, Liquor Bar & Drunkard, Haven’t You Got Eyes in Your Head?

FEZ – Flow, Forgotten, Sync, Spirit

Subnautica – Tropical Eden, Crash Site, Lava Castle, Abandon Ship

Super Mario Bros. – Overworld Theme, Underwater Theme, Level Clear Fanfare

Super Mario 64 – Main Theme, Slider, Dire Dire Docks, Koopa’s Road

Super Mario Galaxy – Rosalina in the Observatory 3, King Bowser, Beach Bowl Galaxy, Gusty Garden Galaxy

Super Mario World – Title Theme, Forest of Illusion, Overworld Theme

Super Mario World 2: Yoshi’s Island – Castle & Fortress, Big Boss, Ending Theme

Angry Birds – Angry Birds Theme
Angry Birds Seasons – Go Green Get Lucky, Mooncake Festival

Angry Birds Space – Angry Birds Space Theme

Angry Birds Rio – Angry Birds Rio Theme

Bad Piggies – Bad Piggies Theme

Everhood – Frogs are Friends, Post Mortem, Sprunkel, Betrayal, Revenge, You Want Gnomes

Bloodstained: Ritual of the Night – Theme of Bloodstained, Luxurious Overture, Theme of Johannes, Silent Howling

The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild – Ancient Folklore, Shrine Battle, Hinox Battle, Zora’s Domain (Day), Abandoned North Mine, Vah Medoh Dungeon, Tarrey Town (Complete), Monk Maz Koshia

Streets of Rogue – Floor 3-1: Ace of La Boots

Sonic Colors – Tropical Resort (Act 1), Vs. Captain Jelly & Admiral Jelly, Planet Wisp (Act 1), Aquarium Park (Act 3), Asteroid Coaster (Act 3)

Sonic Colors: Ultimate – Aquarium Park (Act 1)

Monster Hunter Rise – Proof of a Hero (Rise Ver.), Sanctuary Abandoned, Brave Hunters (Minoto), Cold Blue and Flaming Reds, Barbarous Beast, Spark of Blue, Phantom of the Deep Forest (The Chase), Cold Blue and Flaming Reds (The Chase), Barbarous Beast (The Chase), Kamura’s Song of Purification, Best Buddies, Breath of Ire

Bravely Default – That Person’s Name Is, The Land of Light and Shadow, Visitor, Infiltrating Enemy Territory, Aurora of Darkness, The Day the Wind Blew, You Are My Hope, Wind’s Direction, Baby Bird, Love’s Vagrant, Serpent Eating the Horizon

Octopath Traveler – “Ophilia, the Cleric”, The Sunlands, Enveloped in Kindness, For Treasure/Decisive Battle II

Shantae: Half-Genie Hero – Neo Burning Town, Sky’s Song, Cape Crustacean

Splatoon – Now or Never

Splatoon 2 – Fresh Start, Fly Octo Fly ~ Ebb & Flow (Octo)

Deedlit in Wonder Labyrinth - Nebbioso ~ Into the Fog, Contrattacco ~ Emotional Overload, Vivere ~ Woodchuck's Invitation, Conflitto ~ Into Battle

Mad Rat Dead – MAD RAT, ALIVE?, Breath of Forest, Kind of Hope, Emmental Catalepsy, Mad Heart

Dust: An Elysian Tail – Aurora, Abadis Forest, Short Fuse, Everdawn Basin

Celeste – First Steps, Resurrections, Confronting Myself, Reach for the Summit

Hollow Knight – Dirtmouth, Queen’s Gardens, Crystal Peaks, Fungal Wastes

Undertale – Start Menu, Home, Can You Really Call This A Hotel I Didn’t Receive A Mint On My Pillow or Anything, Undertale

Okami – Princess Sakuya’s Theme, Ushiwaka’s Appearance, Tsutamaki Ruins, Kusanagi Village II, Ushiwaka’s Dance ~ Playing with Ushiwaka

Drakengard 3 - Exvulsion / Phanuel

Chicory: A Colorful Tale – The Town of Luncheon, Dinner, The Big City, Chicory’s Theme, Supper Woods, Probably Ancient Evil, This Colorful World

F.I.S.T.: Forged In Shadow Torch – Rescue Mission, Counterblow, Forged in Shadow, When the Night Falls Upon, Old Soldiers Die Hard

Deathloop – Déjà vu

Cyber Shadow – Geothermal Towers 1, Reactor 3, Outskirts 2(?), Apparitor 2

Doom Eternal – BFG Division 2020, Demonic Corruption, The Only Thing They Fear is You, Gladiator Boss

Deltarune – Rude Buster, Field of Hopes and Dreams, Pandora Palace, You Can Always Come Home

Circuit Superstars – Downshift (90’s), Mechanical Force (70’s), Morning Haze (2020’s)
No Straight Roads – vs. YINU (w/ Closing Fanfar), vs. 1010 (EDM ver.), vs. 1010 (Rock ver.), The Sewers

Owlboy – Escape from the Floating Continent, Vellie (Owlboy Theme), Guardian 2 Battle, Strato, Tropos

Eastward – Iron Carbine, Yamanoue No Machi, Life in a Pot, Tatari, Eastward

God of War (2018) – Ashes, Deliverance, Echoes of an Old Life

Super Smash Bros. Ultimate – Menu Theme, Title Theme ~ Wii Sports Club, Id (Purpose), The Map Page/Bonus Level, Battle! (Lorekeeper Zinnia), Electroplankton, Kass’s Theme, MEGALOVANIA, Victory ~ Sora

 Technicalities (special cases)

Undertale Collector’s Edition Soundtrack – Bereavement

Just Shovels and Knights – La Danse Macabre

The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening – Orchestral Arrangement – Tal Tal Heights

NoteBlock – Battle of Award 42 (A Hat in Time), Rush Hour (A Hat in Time)

Puyo Puyo Series – Theme of Puyo Puyo (x13)

Roblox (?) – Happy Day in Robloxia/Roblox HQ, Laidback, Dignity’s Childhood, Flight of the Bumblebee

Friday Night Funkin: The X Event Mod – Overwrite ~ Vs. XChara

branflakes – Fluffy Bunny Dango (Monster Hunter Rise)

Alex Moukala Music – Nintendo Wii vs 33 Musicians

Splatoon 2 Concert – Spicy Calamari Inkantation (1st Concert)

Monster Hunter 10th Anniversary Compilation Album (Self-Cover) – Fangs Lurking on the Surface of Ice ~ Zamtrios, Life Burning in the Storm, To One with Life, Pokke Village Theme, Proof of a Hero

Monster Hunter 10th Anniversary Compilation Album (Tribute) – Wind of Departure, Reincarnation of Light and Darkness ~ Shagaru Magara, Sparkling Blue Light ~ Zinogre/Tremble of the Sea and Land ~ Lagiacrus, Red Afterglow Running in the Darkness ~ Nargacuga, Illusion of the Dence Forest ~ Oonazuchi, Proof of a Hero

 

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First feature of the year ought to be something special. My opinions concerning Iconoclasts are complicated; I consider some of its design decisions to be poorly determined, yet it remains one of the most personally influential games I've played. It starts out simple and seemingly straightforward, and distracts from some of its initial darker implications with a cheery aesthetic and cheesy dialogue. As the story progresses, it becomes more convoluted, presenting its themes far more seriously. The ending disappointed me; I understand but disagree with some of the developer's intentions, and am completely baffled by others. If I ever did a in-depth review of a game, it would be this one. That's not what this place is for, but you may see something of my journey in the pieces I've selected if you're familiar with the game.

The music itself is expertly and intentionally crafted to accompany the game; area themes sometimes change to reflect story progression, character themes may no longer play if they are no longer indicative of the character's progression, and boss themes remain focused on the action until late game when they become more emotional. It's not technically "dynamic," but the concept is there.

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Perhaps something unexpected?

I have never had the inclination to look into the soundtrack for FNaF World before this week; I assumed it was mostly stock music. Surprisingly, this bizarre game has quite a competent OST to accompany its sharp mood changes. Underneath the initially cheery tracks, the music becomes darker and more sinister the further you go, yet retains its characteristically strong melodies.

Spoiler

 

 

Edited by Ken Hisuag

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