Some Of My Favorite Video Game Tunes
A couple weekends ago I was able to catch a fair amount of the Video Games Live broadcast on PBS. It was an entertaining and impressive presentation – albeit when PBS wasn't on their hands and knees begging for a dollar – and if you have yet to experience it for yourself, I highly recommend you do so. Their rendition of Chrono Cross' "Scars of Time" was the highlight of the show for me. It was exquisite and propelled me to throw on the rose-colored glasses as I reminisced about my time traipsing around El Nido. Ironic too, since I don't necessarily think all that highly of Serge and Co's outing on the PlayStation. Funny how a great song can elicit such a strong reaction. And then I got to thinking that there's a good number of video game songs that not only do I like, but love. So why not list 'em out so everyone can either make fun of me or tell me I'm cool?
Well, make a list I did, and the result are the songs that follow. While this isn't a comprehensive list by any means, it is a good smattering of those tunes culled from my gaming history that struck a chord (and continue to do so) in me like few have.
Xenogears – "Omen"
The venerable RPG cult classic about a bunch of guys running around in giant gears trying to save the planet from....eh......something. To this day I still don't know half of what went on during my time with Xenogears. Aside from the convoluted nightmare that is the MGS storyline, Xenogears attempt to confuse and dumbfound me every step of the way succeeded brilliantly. Something about the Wave Existence and this thing called Deus. Oh, and there was a lot of talk about religion and the lead protagonist, Fei, suffered from the ever-so-common RPG affliction of memory loss. Fun stuff.
Just like Fei, I don't remember much from playing this gem way back in early '99. I do, however, recall the ascension of Babel Tower. Reducing your gears to the mere size of ants, Babel Tower was both enchanting in its decor as it was foreboding in its trappings. Yet it was the inclusion of the song "Omen" that truly made this part of the game establish its own unique identity. The juxtaposition of a delicate piano verse and an ominous synthesizer backdrop coalesce into a chillingly beautiful set piece that helps the tower establish its foreboding identity. One of my all-time favorites.
Quake II – "Descent Into Cerberon"
Oh man, just hearing this song makes me want to go on a murderous rampage. Few songs, let alone complete soundtracks, so perfectly typify mood and gameplay the way Quake II's list of testosterone-induced techno metal does. I clearly remember the days playing this beast on my old Pentium II rig with the volume cranked, mowing down hoards of Stroggs. And then "Descent Into Cerberon" would come on and all h*** would break loose. Many times my inadvertent headbanging would get me killed, but that's the price you pay for being so ***. Just imagine playing Halo or CoD to crap like this. My lord. How much cooler would those games be?!
I miss the good old days of shooters like Quake II. The premise was oh so simple: Kill or be killed. "Descent Into Cerberon" made that task a pleasure.
Half-Life 2: Episode 2 – "Sector Sweep"
Probably my favorite tune from all of Half-Life 2 and its episodic brethren. Nothing like a nice, groovy beat to assail and/or outrun the Combine to. Not to mention those *** Striders and Hunters. Man, do I hate those Striders. But man, do I love this game. (Semi-spoiler ahead)
Emerging from the barn after your first little run-in with an Advisor, "Sector Sweep" helps set the stage for yet another frantic showdown with the Combine. Nothing like popping a couple thousand bullets in some baddies and then high-taling it outta Dodge via that Frankensteined 1969 Charger to get the adrenaline pumping. What a sweet ride. The music perfectly fit the mood of the action – or should I say chaos – unfolding all around you.
One of the most memorable scenes in all of HL2 for me. A perfect song for an unforgettable sequence.
The Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks – "Overworld Theme"
Now this is one catchy song! I'd cruise around in my little train for hours just humming along to this happy little ditty. Certain people around the GI office found the main mode of travel a little tedious (*cough*Reiner*cough*) and while it may not have been the most ideal method for exploring Hyrule, one cannot deny the charm "Overworld Theme" bestowed upon your exploration. Yeah, hunting for those *** rabbits got to be a tad bit exhausting, but this song made those few successes and countless failures to net one of those pesky cotton-tailed rascals a little more bearable. Why? Because no matter the outcome, I'd get to listen to the song all over again! I'd just go galavanting around the countryside, tooting my train's horn in tandem with the beat of the song. It doesn't get much nerdier than that, but I just couldn't help it. It's just so catchy!
"Overworld Theme" might not conform to the "traditional" overworld theme of previous Zelda titles, but that doesn't make it any less enjoyable.
Final Fantasy X-2 – "Eternity ~Memory of Lightwaves~"
Who would have thought that one of my favorite songs from a video game would hail from the JRPG pop/dress-up/schmaltz-fest that is Final Fantasy X-2. Not that it's a bad game per se, but it was so saccharine sweet that it gave me a toothache. It's just that it was hard to take the YuRiPa crew seriously – what with all the dancing and singing they were doing while romping throughout Spira – a stark contrast to its prequel FFX. But you wouldn't get that vibe upon first booting up the game. Nope, instead of conjuring up feelings of Barbie's Play Time, you're treated to what is without question the most memorable and, quite frankly, stunning song in the entire game. Too bad it's wasted in the opening title sequence. Come again?
Yep, the geniuses over at Square decided "Eternity ~Memory of Lightwaves~" was best suited to occupy the space most gamers pass over the quickest: The title screen. It's too bad, because "Eternity" is an absolutely gorgeous song that deserved to have more attention and emphasis placed upon it. Why such a breathtaking melody was relegated to such a minor role, let alone a light-hearted game, is beyond me. You're telling me the more serious, story-focused FFX wouldn't have been a better vehicle for this song to thrive in? Seriously? I digress, but the sheer excellence of "Eternity" and the emotions it evokes cannot be understated.
FFX-2's greatest achievement.
Final Fantasy VII – "You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet"
The ominous repeating synthesizer melody in "You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet" was a sure sign something bad was going to happen soon after you entered the Forgotten City. Sigh. It's such a stirring piece based solely on the sum of its parts – or lack thereof. Just like the aforementioned "Omen", there's a haunting beauty to this score that creates an unsettling, ethereal atmosphere to what is already a surreal environment. If you've played through this particular section of the game, you'll undoubtedly understand why this song has such an emotional weight associated to it. "You Can Hear the Cry of the Planet" helps define and flesh out a number of different feelings both before and after "certain events" occur, giving the song an almost transcendent quality. Once you experience it, you'll never really be able to get it out of your head. For me, that was a good thing.
One of my absolute favorites from the Final Fantasy canon.
The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time – "Spirit Temple Theme"
This song starts up and I, without fail, immediately think of those two *** pots that come hurling at your head shortly after entering the Spirit Temple. Ahh, what a fine memory indeed.
"Spirit Temple Theme" might very well be my favorite song from the entire Zelda series. In fact, I know it is. Why? Let's count the ways shall we?
First off, it hails from what is – as many of you may or may not know – my favorite game of all-time. I adore OoT like no other and the music was and still is a big factor why. Secondly, I've always had a certain fascination with desert/Egyptian/Middle East themes in video games and "Spirit Temple Theme" (along with the Spirit Temple) does a fantastic job of hitting that sweet spot for me. Thirdly, the song created a mystical aura that no other environment of OoT could match. Magical in its simplistic structure, entrancing in its delivery, and haunting in its melody; "Spirit Temple Theme" helps establish a mood within the temple that made the game really come alive for me. It's as immersive as Zelda songs get and stands right up there as one of my all-time video game music pieces period – flying pots notwithstanding.
Chrono Cross – "On the Beach of Dreams ~ Another World ~"
Well lookey at what we have here. A song from a certain game I mentioned earlier that I didn't really like all that much. Funny how stuff like that happens.
It's true, one of my favorite video game tunes hails from good 'ol Chrono Cross. While I might not have preferred the game itself, there was no denying my love for this song. I can remember times playing the game and coming upon the Another World map, putting the controller down, and just letting this song loop over and over again. "On the Beach of Dreams" has that seductive quality that seems to transport you into another world which, funny, is a staple element of gameplay in Chrono Cross. Get it, Another World? Yeah, composer Yasunori Mitsuda is one sneaky fellow.
It's one of those songs that never gets old. Simply gorgeous.
Sonic the Hedgehog – "Green Hill Zone"
A venerable classic. What more needs to be said?
Portal – "Still Alive"
There is no cake.
But there is "Still Alive", an unexpected and zany jingle that awaits players during the end credits of Portal. You're unlikely to find a more humorous, sarcastic, and – ironically – addictive song in all of gaming. The lyrics are completely ridiculous yet very relevant to the Portal storyline. Heck, it's even sung by GLaDOS herself (itself?) – brilliant! And I haven't even mentioned the fact that it's a *** catchy song too. Seriously, this is a song you'll easily find yourself singing along to despite its insanity. It's obvious the composers working over at Valve saw this whole Auto-Tune craze coming and jumped on board while it was still a fresh idea. Ha ha, fat chance.
Anyway, this cake is great.
And there you have it folks. Let the ranting, raving, and belittling begin...