Archive for December, 2009

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Gokujo Parodius – “Farewell Love” (arr. Kenichi Mitsuda)

December 31, 2009

There’s one Gradius tune that really sticks with me outside of the other tracks in the fantastic series. This one is “Farewell”, the ending theme from Gradius II (arcade, 1988). It gives this sense of leaving friends behind as well as the vast reaches of space that separate people and the tiny stars suspended within. It’s a very powerful, emotional track. The original version is…well, Kukeiha Club (maybe Motoaki Furukawa?).

Gokujo Parodius – “Farewell Love” (arr. Kenichi Mitsuda)

In this version, the giant space station/all-night penguin dance-athon has just exploded, and the camera is floating past the debris (which contains some bizarre trash such as a bra). As a result, this version has a slightly sillier, lounge feel to it. Which is pretty good for winding down the new year.

I haven’t exactly found my favorite version of this song yet. Oddly enough, the MSX version of Gradius II (1987) has a different ending theme. I’ve yet to find my favorite ‘definitive’ version of this song as it has so much emotion packed into it. The Arcade and Famicom versions are both very good, but a little short. The Suite Gradius Fantasia (1988) version is a nice orchestrated version by the Gradius Symphonic Orchestra, but it lacks the sense of space that the original versions had, mainly because there’s little filling in the middle.

This track is actually off the PlayStation Gokujo Parodius Deluxe Pack, which is actually a comedic parody of the Gradius series (and in some cases better than the originals!). Gokujo is the best in the series and well worth tracking down. They actually released a soundtrack that doubles as a drama album. Note that the SNES version had a different composer.

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Super Mario RPG – “Happy Parade…” (Yoko Shimomura)

December 30, 2009

There are so many different game endings to choose from, that it’s a little hard to pick which one to use. For a change, I decided to pick the tune to one of my favorite game endings. Role Playing Games are well known for their stories (which often times are a bit overrated), and as such, they tend to have more impressive endings. One of the ones I remember most is the ending to Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars (1996), Squaresoft’s swan song for the SNES. The whole sequence lasts about 13 minutes, with a cutscene showing everyone rebuilding the Mushroom Kingdom followed by a parade! Actually, that’s one of the neatest ways to end a cute game like this, showing a parade of all the characters. So here is the video of the ending as well as a copy of the MP3 of “Happy Parade, Delightful Parade/And the Parade Draws to a Close” by Yoko Shimomura (Final Fight, Parasite Eve). (You know, I think this is one of the longest track titles I’ve run into). Now it’s fun to listen to the track by itself and treat it as a musical piece completely removed from the imagery, so if you haven’t seen the ending before, I suggest giving just the song a listen first! Pay special attention to the harpsichord, cymbal crashes, and variations of the theme as you listen.

Super Mario RPG – “Happy Parade, Delightful Parade/And the Parade Draws to a Close…” (Yoko Shimomura)

Now there are some interesting elements to this ending theme that also make their way into many other game ending soundtracks. One of these is the leitmotif, a variation of the main melody that is flavored to include elements of the themes of each main character. This way, as that character appears on-screen, his or her song plays in accompaniment (such as a heavier harpsichord version when Valentina appears being carried by her giant bird). The result is the ending acts as a kind of flash-back of all the events that occurred in the game and a snapshot of all the characters the player has encountered, with both the cartoons and the music reflecting their characters.

Of course, the theme also changes depending on what is happening on-screen, Read the rest of this entry ?

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8-Bit Mondays: Metroid – “Ending” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka)

December 29, 2009

If I was to pick one ending theme that I most like, it’s got to be the ending to Metroid. Hirokazu Tanaka’s masterpiece is something that really defines what the NES/Famicom sound chip was able to do by using each instrument to the fullest, taking the scale all over the place: you can hear the triangle wav move all the way from its more timber bass line to the airy bells used in the middle section. The drums in the next section have this great toe-tapping feel to them, with the taps to the beat seeming to penetrate right to the heart. Finally, the very last notes have a great sense of triumph to them that gives the player the feel of a job well done. This is the type of music that a player should be rewarded with! There’s a reason why they call him Hip Tanaka!

Metroid – “Ending” (Hirokazu “Hip” Tanaka) [FDS Version]

NES Version

The song gains even greater impact due to its relationship with the other songs as well as the showdown in Tourian. First, Hirokazu Tanaka composed the soundtrack with the idea of countering every pop game soundtrack that had been produced up until that point. As such, the soundtrack is very amelodic, chaotic, and discordant, with each song giving a different feel of darkness and terror to the labyrinth of Zebes. This atmospheric music was among the first first and certainly the premier of its kind. Hip Tanaka treated the whole soundtrack like a living creature, composing the music so it would absorb the player’s sound effects as part of the piece.

The showdown in Tourian takes this to its zenith Read the rest of this entry ?

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Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – Ending (Koji Kondo)

December 28, 2009

As the year draws to a close, I wanted to pull a few of my favorite ending themes. Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past (1991) is a good place to start, and it is also one of my favorite game endings. The entire ending sequence (not counting the Triforce Chamber), lasts 7:44, and it has some nice cutscenes showing all the places the player has traveled and all the people he helped as well as some wonderful music. This medley of the “Ending” and “Credits” themes comes from Legend of Zelda: Sound and Drama (1994), another rare album.

Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past – “Ending” (Koji Kondo)

Also available in FLAC

This song is actually a combination of the ending and credits themes from Legend of Zelda: A Link to the Past. The track begins with the “Triforce Collect SFX” that plays at the end of the Triforce room sequence. The “Ending” theme then plays accompanying a long cutscene showing how Link has brought peace to the kingdom of Hyrule through his heroism. All the evil has fled and the world is back to normal (or about as normal as Hyrule can ever be!). The theme gives a nice sense of flying over the rolling hills, forests, and mountains of Hyrule as a nice victory march. A rupee-esque harp is even played for good emphasis (1:12). Many of the different scenes have their own variations of the main theme, such as the ocarina player in the forest (2:10), who is shown playing in the grove to all the animals as a more dance-like movement driven by strings begins. The end sequence with strong trumpets coming to a crescendo is where Link returns the Master Sword to its place of rest, deep in the forest. In all the track has some nice variations, and is a pleasure to listen to.

Next plays the “Credits” theme, which is one of the most beautiful vgm pieces. It is an arrangement of the Zelda “Overworld” theme, played softly with strings (violins and cellos), then adds a flute. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Jazz Jackrabbit 2: Holiday Hare ’98 – “White Hare” (Alexander Brandon)

December 27, 2009

Today’s Daily is a special request: a tune from Jazz Jackrabbit (you can request tracks through e-mail or posting a response and I’ll try and get to them). I picked “Holiday Hare” from Jazz Jackrabbit 2: Holiday Hare ’98 (PC) out of the selection. This was a shareware bonus disc that added and modified levels to the basic version.

Jazz Jackrabbit 2: Holiday Hare ’98 – “White Hare” (Alexander Brandon)

“White Hare” is a bit more subdued in its borrowing of traditional Christmas tunes than the original Holiday Hare, with plenty of sleigh bells, rock guitar, and original melody and only a short reference to Jingle Bells. It’s a short, enjoyable piece with plenty of snow dashing and rabbit leaps to go around. I don’t have credits, but the track is probably composed by Alexander Brandon (Tyrian, Unreal, Deus Ex), who did the rest of the Jazz Jackrabbit 2 games.

Jazz Jackrabbit is a series of action platformer games for the PC based off console titles like Mario and Sonic. In this game, the player is a rabbit who fights tortoises, following the ‘tortoise and the hare’ story. The series was designed by Cliff Bleszinski (Gears of War) and the protagonist is a Buck Rogers-type action hero while his brother, Spazz, is exactly that. Just don’t ask why he’s green.

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Lime Odyssey – “Theme of Lime Odyssey -piano ver” (Yasunori Mitusda)

December 26, 2009

There’s times when I hate finding out about something really special after it happens – particularly if it’s very soon after it’s over. This is the case with the Lime Odyssey piano remix posted by Yasunori Mitsuda on his studio’s website, Procyon Studio. This lovely piano piece was available from December 21 to December 24 (Japan time) as a Christmas present to his fans. Thankfully, someone recorded a copy off the homepage and uploaded it to the web (in 160kbps though – nobody seems to understand that this is no longer the 90s; however, there might be a Flash version hiding somewhere if you ask the right person). In case you missed it or didn’t hear about it, here is the track. Note there is a slightly higher quality version streaming from this site (YouTube compresses audio WAY too much).

Lime Odyssey – “Theme of Lime Odyssey -piano ver” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

The “Theme of Lime Odyssey” has a nice peaceful, Christmasy feel to it. It gives a sense of snow lazily falling on a snowy lane, or perhaps also great open green fields in bright sunshine; it’s the notes falling softly like wind or rolling water. Like much of Mitsuda’s other work, this song can easily stand on its own as a chamber piano piece. Thankfully, I have a good feeling that he will put this on CD when the game, a Korean MMORPG, is released sometime next year (why make music if you have no intention of letting others hear it?). Mr. Mitsuda should also be finishing his Chrono Cross remix soundtrack, perhaps also in March. No doubt it will be announced on his Twitter account as soon as it’s ready!

I actually heard about this special through a friend who found it on Destructoid this morning, after it had been reported by Original Sound Version on the 23rd. The only place you can really find useful news like this is by checking OSV the main page, which is the number one hub for game news. I don’t check it very often myself, but here are a few fantastic bits of news of recent:

A 19-disc Castlevania Soundtrack Collection featuring unreleased music from Nocturne in the Moonlight, Vampire Killer, and Castlevania Legends ($230, and probably will only be available only through the Konami Store to people who live in Japan – boo! I want one, but I already own most of the discs on the album! VGMWorld and Play-Asia will probably carry copies, slightly marked up, of course.)

Contra 4: Rocked ‘n Loaded, a metal mix album that will be available at MAGFest on New Year’s (if you’re in the Virginia area, it’s well worth checking out).

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Creid – “Lahan” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

December 25, 2009

Merry Christmas, everyone! And what better way to celebrate the holidays than some celebration music? This is one of my favorite tracks from my favorite vgm album, Creid (1998), a remix album of music from Xenogears (1998). “Lahan” is a nice, Celtic fiddle mix that feels like it was taken directly out of an inn somewhere in Ireland. The fiddle and tin whistle are so bright and pure and full of joy, while the bag pipes are have an incredibly pleasant, mellow sound to fill out the mid range. In the end, the accordion and singers kick in to bring the melody to a fine close: it seems like the entire band got together to perform this entire piece. You can almost feel as if you are in the tavern with your best friends, having the best time ever – it is the place I would most like to be. The whole album seems to me a celebration of peace and harmony, especially through a combination of instruments that in any other situation might create a cacophony – in the hands of Yasunori Mitsuda, it is perfect, glorious melody.

Creid - “Lahan” (Yasunori Mitsuda)

Creid was based on music composed by Yasunori Mitsuda and arranged by Mitsuda as well as Tetsuko Honma, KALTA, and Eimear Quinn. The album is performed by the band Millennial Fair, a mix of Japanese and Irish musicians, including Marie Breatnach on the fiddle (Final Fantasy IV: Celtic Moon) and uillean piper Davy Spillane (Riverdance). This was a very unique setup that combines Japanese and Celtic influences to create something very original. The timing for the album was perfect, as shortly after its release there was a big boom of Celtic music in Japan. The band’s name is a reference to the Millennial Fair from Chrono Trigger, and event that celebrates the coming of peace in the Middle Ages of the game world, 1000 years ago. In case you’re curious, Wikipedia has an excellent overview of the album and its composition.

Creid was reprinted in 2005, and so is still pretty easy to pick up on places like CD Japan and Play Asia. It is well worth the effort and price of admission. Read the rest of this entry ?

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