Let The Music Play

I read an awesome article from a friend on his new site nxistence.net (stop by and check it out) that pertained to his dislike of how gaming music has evolved from a well thought-out meaningful struggle, both through hardware constraints and composition, to a semi-homogeneous hodgepodge of like-sounding tunes. I understand exactly where he is coming from with his stance. There are very few beats or tracks that, when I think back on the game they were in, will evoke specific emotions like they did back in the day. So I sat down and thought to myself, “What games did I play last year that had great or memorable music?”

Here is my list:

Skyrim:

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This song lets you know from the moment you hit “Start” that you are ready to get yourself into something epic and massively badass. Orchestral and big, it gives the you the feeling that you are about to do battle even before you pick up your first weapon. I loved it and understand why they used it in most of the advertising that preceded its launch.

Portal 2:

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Portal 2’s ending was awesome–I think the fact that I thought I was going to die by turret helped make this song so memorable. The whimsical notes along with the visuals added so much to the ending that it had to be one my favorites of the year. Who knew that being serenaded by hundreds of faceless killing machines would wind up being so endearing. Although I don’t think this or the ending credits song was as good as “Still Alive“, it left me both wanting more of the game and happy to see its creators put such nice finishing touches on what was a wonderful ride.

Infamous 2:

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The Infamous series is about being a reluctant superhero, a real person put into extraordinary circumstances who has to make tough decisions about right and wrong. I think this song has elements of all these themes in it. I appreciate songs that you would want to be your “walking music” on the commute to work. Songs that would be your entrance music if you were a wrestler, or in my case an IT guy. I want this song to play when I fix your broken shortcuts or printers; I don’t want this just to play in my head, but in small speakers that I’ve strategically placed on my belt so that you know I’m awesome when I leave your cubicle. It just makes you feel like you made it through something tough and came out better on the other side. Plus violins are AWESOME!

El Shaddai:

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I heard about this game from Shane Bettenhausen, a former 1up writer who then went on the work for the company who put this game out. I have massive respect for Shane and his gaming views so I rented a copy from Gamefly. I was blown away by the whole package it provided. A breathtaking graphic style, simple but engaging gameplay and really cool music. The theme above is reminiscent of the old school gaming music I loved when I grew up: airy and powerful with pulsating drums that push you on your adventure. I have to say this and the next game I list would go under my “Most slept on games of 2011.”

Shadows of the Damned:

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As an older gamer, my music tastes have changed substantially during this part of my life. Shadow’s soundtrack was pretty eye-opening. The game is brash and sexy, spooky and eclectic. It mixes small tinges of mariachi and  throws downbeat atmospheric licks just for shits and giggles. It had to be my favorite gaming soundtrack just for those reasons. The tracks fit so well with the game, and that’s because Akira Yamaoaka just knows how to do gaming music. If you’ve played a Silent Hill game you know what I’m talking about. There is also an amazing song titled “Justine For All” that plays during the side-scrolling stages; it reminds me of something that would play in a demented carnival. You must check it out.

All in all I would say 2011 had some very interesting and exciting  music additions, and I am really excited to see what can be done in the next-gen music wise. The ability to not be constrained to small midi files, bleeps and crackles will only help to make our memories and gaming experiences fuller and more meaningful. It will give composers and artists the ability match the standards they want their music to reach and will hopefully give us something to tap our feet and bang our heads to while we rescue our newest prince or princess.

Thank you to all the folks that took the time to find and post such great music on Youtube. When clicking on the links give them a shout as well and say thanks.

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