Getting into the world of video game music is a deep and involving journey. The amount of choice presented is astounding, especially considering how video game music spans pretty much every genre under the sun. It’s overwhelming, and it can be exhausting to sift through. The reward, though, is discovering a land full of diverse styles and music to fit every mood, perfect for independant listening. Maybe I’m just making it out to be a much bigger Thing than it really is, for the sake of dramatic introduction.
My goal here is simply to take some of the work out of the process, and provide a gentle nudge in the right direction for those who are in the market for new tunes. More often lately I’ve been listening to Video Game Music in my free time. As it happens, I am listening to some as I write this. You should be, too. If you’re new to the world of VGM or maybe just never thought about grooving to it outside of the context of the game it originates from, the listenability and the quality may surprise you. If your iPod/phone/etc. is filled with the stuff already, maybe you’ll find something here to add to it.
This is, or will be, a regular-ish column about music in games, existing as a service for those looking for new (or new to them) tunes to shove into their fleshy audio receptors. I’ll be going through a bit of everything, from a recap of the recent stuff to come out, to some classics that have stood the test of time and a whole bunch in between. I’ll be breaking down the column into sections.
What I’ll be covering will be loosely placed into these sections:
Music that’s new (/gasp), and found in recent releases. This could be anything from stuff in the last few days, to the last few months. Since this is a new column, there will be some catching up to do, so “new” is going to be a pretty vague term, at least for a while. Anything that’s recent and worth mention goes here.
This will also be the main focus, since this largely started as a recap column.
“The New” category will have a few selections, the number depending on how many recent releases have soundtracks worth mentioning.
All of the other sections will have one featured game/artist per episode.
A category for the games from the past generation or so. Stuff that isn’t exactly new, but I wouldn’t call it retro, either.
Retro stuff that still sounds good today. This will be one featured selection each episode. I have a lot to cover with this, but I still listen to tons of old soundtracks from the SNES/Genesis era, and there’s always something new (you know what I mean) to dig up from the classics.
The Sort Of Game-Related
This is for the nerdcore, the covers, and anything that sounds even vaguely chiptune. Artists use video game samples and subject matter, as well as reminiscent sounds, all the time. This is in addition to the vast remixing crowd. This is the place for the nerdcore, for the covers, and for the remixes.
Now… obviously there’s a lot of ground to cover, so we’re going to have to play catch up over a few episodes.
With enough exposition out of the way, let’s kick off the inaugural edition.
Since this is the first, there’s obviously going to be some catching up to do. So far in 2014 we’ve already seen some great soundtracks, so lets round up a bit of the best since the start of the new year.
Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
Composer(s)/Artist: David Wise, Kenji Yamamoto
Genres/Feels: Tropical, Funk, Swing, Jazz, Folk
David Wise makes his triumphant return to the Donkey Kong Country franchise with this soundtrack, and it’s fantastic. With him is the longtime Nintendo composer Kenji Yamamoto, his most well-known work coming from the Metroid series. We talked about the music quite a bit in the review for the game, so for more detailed analysis, be sure to give it a read.
Dark Souls 2
Composer(s)/Artist: Motoi Sakuraba, Yuka Kitamura
Genres/Feels: Orchestral, Eerie, Atmospheric, Sweeping
Queen Of Drangleic
A hotly-anticipated brutal action-adventure title, the release of Dark Souls 2 brings with it a moody atmosphere and a haunting soundtrack to compliment the no-nonsense and unforgiving gameplay. It’s both haunting and beautiful, the kinds of feelings that slide right into place for the journey. For more on the game, check out Techraptor’s review!
Genres/Feels: Hip-Hop, Jazz, Techno, Electronica
The Roots by Long Arm
Dwarf Dance by Flako
This rad little Vita (for now!) skateboarding game featured an equally rad soundtrack. The jazzy, new wave hip-hop music comes from a smattering of different indie artists, and the eclecticism makes for a unique listening experience. The beats and grooves turn the quick game into a dance floor for your thumb, with quick flicks and precision timing creating a tangible rhythm to the whole thing. Below are a couple of my favorites:
An indie 1 on 1 fencing/swordplay combat game that has finally released after some long years of development. The soundtrack is provided by Daedelus, and complements well the crazy intense battles that unfold on-screen. It’s intense, and the tunes reflect the grueling and sometimes drawn-out nature of the battles.
Genres/Feels: Electronica, Heavy Beats, Minimal
That’s not nearly all of the notable soundtracks released so far this year. I’ll be playing catchup some more during later episodes, so stay tuned!
Now, though, I’ll be featuring a couple of games of varying age, and a rad band I can’t shut up about.
Risk of Rain
25 3°N 91 7°E
Genres/Feels: Rock, Electronic, New Wave
Artist: Chris Christodoulou
I’ve talked about this one before, but it seems I can’t stop. Risk of Rain is a Kickstarter success that I didn’t find out about until it was out on Steam and everyone was raving about it, for good reason. This roguelike gem can be insanely difficult, but it’s cooperative play and fantastic soundtrack make that alright. This one is still fairly new, but it came out last year so I figure it belongs here, and anyways I set the rules so deal with it.
Donkey Kong Country 2
Hot Head Bop
Artist: David Wise
Genres/Feels: Tropical, Ambient, Swing, Folk
Yeah, yeah, everyone knows how awesome this soundtrack is. However, with the release of Tropical Freeze recently, I’ve been going back to the SNES trilogy frequently, for some nostalgia and reflection for comparison’s sake. I know it’s kind of moot to be talking about this soundtrack since it’s pretty well-known to be a classic, but if you’re not in the know it’ll blow you away with it’s quality, and if you are it’s more than deserving of a revisit.
The Sort Of Game-Related
Let’s Go Neon Bowling
If Love Is A Fire We Will Set This City Ablaze
Genres/Feels: Chiptune, Electronic, Synthpop
This is a duo I’ve shoved in peoples faces for a long time now, and I’m bringing it to the general internet public. Starship Amazing has been making digital tunes for some time now, and with each major release they mature to a ridiculous degree. Their most recent album, Ruby Dagger, is their best work to date, delivering 9 tracks of awesome for any fan of the chiptune and electronic genre. That’s not to say their old stuff isn’t worth checking out, as well. Below are a few of my favorites. Plus, a large majority of their older stuff is pay-what-you-want, so you have no excuse.
And that concludes the inaugural edition of the Techraptor Music Lounge. Future episodes will further cover the games I missed so far in 2014, as well as the releases that will show up in the time between.
Thanks for reading, and for listening. Feedback is always appreciated!