Posts Tagged ‘Medieval’


Valkyrie Profile – “Behave Irrationally” (arr. Corran)

December 4, 2010

So yeah, I’ve been getting these out a little late recently, so for the past few days it’s been a little less Daily than usual… Anyway, today’s is an arrange from Valkyrie Profile, another one of the Viking games that I’ve started but haven’t quite beaten. Valkyrie Profile takes the premise that Rangarok is coming and the Valkyries have to be very busy these days to collect enough souls and train them for the final battle (why they decide to do this at the last minute is anyone’s guess…). The game doesn’t take place in medieval Scandinavia, but rather spills over into what looks like 16th Century England, complete with anime warriors and some trips to Japan. Still, that doesn’t keep it from having an interesting mix of Norse mythology. Anyway, the game is interrupted frequently by long story sequences where you get to hear the background of the guy whose soul you’re supposed to collect. The song that plays most commonly in these is “Behave Irrationally”, which fits with whatever brought this poor guy to his death. There’s an excellent arrange of this by Corran from VGMix 2.0 that’s worth a listen.

Valkyrie Profile – “Behave Irrationally” (arr. Corran)

The arrival of the Valkyrie is a mystical moment, one that requires tenderness and reflection as it is a crossing between two worlds and an evaluation of the soul. Corran uses echoing pounds from the drum, like rolling waves crashing against the shores of the other world. With brass and flutes, there is a sense here of human failings, of decisions made at the heat of emotion, the song a silent reflection and promise of redemption. The original used primarily a music-box of chimes and flutes. A wonderful expansion on another fine soundtrack by Motoi Sakuraba (Star Ocean).

“Behave Irrationally” had some other interesting arranges. One of these is a Viking Metal piece by CHIPP Damage and Fray from OCR, “The Shining Blue Armor Descends“. While I usually don’t listen to death metal (I get nothing out of the growls), the song is presented here as an epic ballad that if not using poetry of the skalds, has a presentation of battle and glory that most Vikings would have been proud of.

Another thing that springs to mind… If all the good warriors went to Valhallah, then why is there such a big problem about fighting the Ragnarok? Odin’s got the best players on his team. Maybe Loki gives everyone steroids in Hel to get them super-pissed off… Still, if you’ve got Beowulf, Toshiro Mifune, and Chuck Norris on your team, is there really any contest?


Warcraft: Orcs & Humans – “Track 2” (Glenn Stafford, et al)

July 8, 2010

WarCraft: Orcs & Humans (1994) was a game that defined the RTS. Though predated by other games such as Dune II (1992), WarCraft took the formula of build-gather-fight and polished it in a rich fantasy universe that’s still alive and strong today (in fact, I liked the story to WarCraft II so much, I read the extensive narratives in th manual more than once!). Well, here’s where it all started.

WarCraft: Orcs & Humans – “Track 2” (Glenn Stafford, et al)

This track from WarCraft illustrates themes and styles that would be repeated in later WarCraft and StarCraft games. The music is defined by a long, dynamic track that covers a wide range of emotions, being able to match not only the art of war, but also building and gathering resources. “Track 2” (for want of a better name…) is a slow, dark medieval military march, with a strong melody on brass and punctuated by strings and flutes (1:12). The building tension adds drama and the exotic instrument set (including harpischord at 2:33) sets the soundtrack in a fantasy realm beyond time.

I actually don’t know what the real title of this song is, so if anyone knows, please tell me! This is a rather low-quality rip of the game’s midi score, but the songs are complete – as far as anyone knows, the soundtrack was never released. However, Blizzard later created a joke track, that disco ‘hit’, “I’m a Medieval Man.” The piece mixes voice clips from WarCraft II command responses for some head-shaking nonsense. Blizzard has such a nice sense of humor for fans.

The music and sound was composed by a large team: Gregory AlperRick Jackson (Fallout 2, Baldur’s Gate), Chris Palmer, and Glenn Stafford. Stafford later went on to produce soundtracks for the rest of the WarCraft series as well as World of WarCraft. He also composed the forgotten Blizzard classics Lost Vikings and Blackthorne.


Shadow of the Colossus – “The Opened Way” (Kow Otani)

June 25, 2010

Returning to Shadow of the Colossus, here is “The Opened Way”, one of the main Colossus battle themes. Each colossi uses one of several themes, helping give it a unique feel. “The Opened Way” is one of the best of the bunch as it has one of the most memorable melodies from the soundtrack and gives a perfect soundtrack to the massive movements of the colossus coupled with the nimble motion of the hero, Wander. This theme is used when fighting the first colossus, as well as several others.

Shadow of the Colossus – “The Opened Way” (Kow Otani)

“The Opened Way” seems a little antique, probably due primarily to the deep drums as well as the strings. The entire soundtrack is like this, feeling like a setting distant from our own. The theme has a lot of desperation, the gruesome work of fighting and brutal sword slashes, as well as a tinge of melancholy. There are three major sections, the first dominated by strings, the second with a trumpet line and flute, and the third with and excellent call and response between strings and drums. The second and third sections in particular have incredible melody while the drums have amazing volume. The overall impression is a metaphor of battle as a waltz to the death.


Shadow of the Colossus – “The Farthest Land” (Kow Otani)

June 24, 2010

It is very difficult to define an entire game by a single song, so I am always looking for chances to show more than one song from a game – which is a little different than simply showing a series of interesting songs. Shadow of the Colossus (2005) falls in both categories – a game that I would love to show multiple songs from because one song simply cannot capture the entirety of the game, but one that contains several songs that play well on their own. The soundtrack is very exotic, containing interesting combinations of strings, percussion, brass, harp, fagotto (a kind of bassoon), and choral which ultimately create a cross between medieval and fantasy – I would love to know what Kow Otani’s influences are. You really cannot mark the style as being anything other than native to the world of Ico. The album with the Japanese title Wander and the Colossus ~Roar of the Earth~ is marked with a series of battle tracks as well as interludes that serve to break up the action – so not only is the album aesthetically pleasing, but it is also well arranged.

Shadow of the Colossus ~Roar of the Earth~ – “The Farthest Land” (Kow Otani)

Though one of the battle themes such as “The Opened Way” might serve to better illustrate the bulk of the game, “The Farthest Land” is my favorite piece. It serves as a kind of intermission – or more accurately, an overture for the second half of the album and an illustration of the spirit behind the game (the colossi, while central to the game, are not the entirety of it). I think I love the track the most because of its beautiful melancholy, its recalling of a distant land, a legend, and a young man with hopes and dreams that are not quite fulfilled the way he desires. The chimes, tambourine, and flute give the piece a dreamlike, magical quality, a kind of lullaby, while the echoes of (what I think is) a dulcimer send the emotions of the piece across the desert to peoples distant both geographically and temporally. It’s simply an amazing piece. Interestingly, “The Farthest Land” plays twice on the album, first halfway through, and again at the end as a reprise.

Shadow of the Colossus happens to be my favorite game (even though I’ve played it only once; I think I’m about due for a second play-through!). This is due to the emotions of playing it, the beauty of the world, and the richness of the battles. Other excellent songs from the album are “A Swift Horse”, “In Awe of the Power”, and “A Despair-Filled Fairwell”. Each song sounds very different from the last, creating a rich tapestry for the entire album.

Kow Otani (sometimes spelled Kow Ohtani), has composed music for both games and anime (notably Outlaw Star). One of his earliest compositions was the interesting hybrid shooter Philsoma (1995), a launch title for the PS1 and fairly difficult to locate.


The King of Dragons – “Hard Long” (Yoko Shimomura)

April 13, 2010

Ok, two things about The King of Dragons (1994). “Hard Long” (aka “Treasure in an Old Castle!”) is probably not something you want to title your track for obvious reasons, so my guess is this is a translation error (more like a long, hard battle). Second, the version I picked is from the SNES version of the game over the arcade – I’m not sure who ported it, but this is another fun Yoko Shimomura soundtrack (despite what the ID3 tag says). Anyway, the goal of this game is to fight through a fantasy countryside to get to the giant Red Dragon at the top of the mountain and kill him. A good, solid show.

The King of Dragons – “Hard Long” (Yoko Shimomura)

“Hard Long” has some nice liquid midi trumpets supported by bells and driven forward by a steady drum beat – that classic Capcom sound found in Mega Man, especially Mega Man 7 (though oddly enough, the drum sets and organs sound like they would belong in Castlevania). The track plays in “an old castle”, and so the trumpets playing in minor key with piano give a sense of nostalgia and the past amidst this dilapidated ruin, but also the heroic determination you’d expect from knights and wizards fighting their way past orcs. Many of the compositions in here are just begging for some remixes, but I haven’t been able to track any down.

The original arcade version was printed on Captain Commando -G.S.M. Capcom 5- (1991). The SNES version sounds a bit better than the arcade version, mainly due to its cleaner instruments. Don’t get me wrong – the arcade version has some fantastic sound samples for the time, but the small storage meant they had to be compressed and so have a kind of grating or staticky sound to them, like they’re coming from a well. Some of Shimomura’s drum samples and cymbal crashes (particularly for “Main Theme”) are stunning, and the sound effects are amazing (Capcom was nice and put tracks on their albums containing all the sfx from their games along with the music). But I prefer the SNES’s cleaner sound to that of the arcade.

Honestly, I didn’t know Yoko Shimomura composed this soundtrack. My connection with the game has been through my cousin, who brought the SNES version over each time he visited. King of Dragons is a combination of beat ’em up and RPG – the more you fight, the stronger your characters get, and you pick up new weapons and armor at the end of each stage. In some ways, it’s a bit like Magic Sword. The game was a blast to play, with the campy monsters (ninjas in Dungeons and Dragons?) and difficulty that spawned all kinds of inside jokes. Of course, the kicker is the level up and new life SFX – “WOOAAAH!” Best warrior cry ever.


Legend of Valkyrie – “Main Theme” (Hiroyuki Kawada)

March 24, 2010

Legend of Valkyrie was picked by Scitron as one of the best soundtracks of 1989 in their ‘Best of‘ album. The soundtrack was released in Namco Game Sound Express VOL. 1: Legend of  Valkyrie, and is an arranged version of the original soundtrack. With her first appearance in 1986, Valkyrie is one of the earliest videogame heroines (and also the same age as Samus). Unlike Samus though, Valkyrie does not hide her feminine appearance, but both can kick but just as well as the guys. Sadly, she has the incredibly un-original name of just plain old ‘Valkyrie’.

Legend of Valkyrie – “Main Theme” (arr. Hiroyuki Kawada)

Legend of Valkyrie‘s “Main Theme” is fun to compare with the first stage themes to Sparkster and Detana Twinbee. Each of these three songs expresses the freedom of movement and has a catchy tune built over a steady beat. I suppose it’s definitive of ‘classic videogame music’. Regardless, it’s pretty adventurous and lots of fun. Here is video of the original game. The game looks in some ways like Zelda, and the bright atmosphere of slaying demons and helping the villagers is communicated by the music.

Legend of Valkyrie was composed by Hiroyuki Kawada (Winning Run, Dragon Spirit). He was one of Namco’s first composers and is still making new music today. There was a nice symphonic remix of this on Namco Game Music Grafiti Volume 6. (Sounds like the album was a bit scratched up though).


WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos – “Lordaeron Fall” (Glenn Stafford)

February 22, 2010

While “Lordaeron Fall” is not the best Humans track on WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos (2002; I think this title goes to “Blackrock & Roll”), the piece contains a special standing for me as it is a remix of the “Humans 2” track from WarCraft II (1996), probably the most recognizable theme from that game. Whereas in WarCraft II the theme represents an kingdom growing to the height of its power to ruthlessly repel an invader, the theme is reprised in “Lordaeron Fall” after Prince Arthas returns to the kingdom and, cursed by the sword Frostmourne, slays the king and pillages the city, leaving it in ruins. It is important to note that Glenn Stafford composed both the original version of this theme and its remix.

WarCraft III: Reign of Chaos – “Lordaeron Fall” (Glenn Stafford)

“Lordaeron Fall” begins with a low blare of trumpets that begin playing the opening notes of the Humans theme from WarCraft II. 30 seconds in, the main melody begins with “Humans 2” played low on the clarinet, supported by strings and trumpets, building to a height with trumpets at 0:55. However, the notes never resolve into the main theme and instead die down at 1:10-1:30 into a dirge where the kingdom in ruins is surveyed. The theme is reprised again at 2:40 in minor key with strings, ending with the low tolling of bells at 3:40.

The theme first plays as the survivors fight their way out of the burning city that is now filled with the undead, and in subsequent missions thereof. If “Humans 2” is an army at the height of its power, then “Lordaeron Fall” is a kingdom that has suffered a grave defeat and fall from glory. Recovering from its wounds, its soldiers march onward to regain honor and security. “Lordaeron Fall” thus probably gains more of its impact through its history and references to the original track than as a standalone piece; I think I enjoy it more for its familiarity.

The WarCraft III soundtrack came packaged with the collector’s edition. Being a huge WarCraft fan at the time, I picked up that version, and so have a copy of the album (I was fairly disappointed with the game though). However, the soundtrack is available on iTunes for $9.99, which isn’t bad as there are a few good tracks here. In Europe, a special two-disc album was created with music ‘inspired by’ the game.


Ultima IX – “Stones (Chamber)” (George Oldziey)

February 21, 2010

“Stones” is one of the most endearing vgm songs ever composed – in fact, it was memorable enough to have its own fansite, which contains many versions of the song. The original version was written for Ultima VI: The False Prophet (1990) by David Watson (Ultima VII, Stonekeep). (David is represented by the character “Iolo” in the game.) As a rarity for vgm, this piece also contains lyrics penned by Watson’s wife, Kathleen Jones (“Gwenno”), though they are not sung in any of the official versions. This rendition is from Ultima IX: Ascension (1999), the series’ ill-fated swan song and was composed by George Oldziey (Wing Commander 4, Red Faction: Guerilla). I can’t say which version out of all the fan mixes is best, but I happen to like this official version the most.

Ultima IX: Ascension – “Stones (Chamber)” (George Oldziey)

“Stones” is a medieval elegy or lay, played on flute, harp, and strings. It has a deep sense of nostalgia but also loss and sadness for beauty and the past. These are reflected in the lyrics, which ask and mourn for the builders of mysterious Stonehenge-like structures that stand on the plains of Wiltshire, though these lyrics are unnecessary to communicate the song’s sadness. The recording of this piece is pretty high quality as you can hear the breath of the flutists before they play. Reportedly, it was performed by a 50-piece orchestra.

Ultima is one of the most famous and groundbreaking RPG series ever produced. However, because it was a computer RPG, many console fans have never been exposed to it despite its profound influence on the genre. Some of the other tracks on this album have a great medieval feel, and some are reminiscent of music for Christmas time, particularly “Britain Positive”, due mainly to the instrument selection. “Valoria Ships” is another of my favorites from this album.

Finally, here are the lyrics. The poetry itself contains a great deal of emotion, but also a reference to the deep history of the game’s world, Brittania – and also, perhaps, a sense of the lost history of our own world. It makes me wonder what our own civilization will leave behind, and if anything is left, what people 2500 years from now will think of us. You can either sing along or imagine a famous bard telling the tale:

Long ago ran the sun on a folk who had a dream
And the heart and the will and the power:
They moved the earth; they carved the stone; moulded hill and channeled stream
That we might stand on the wide plains of Wiltshire
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Suite Wizardry II – “Opening Theme” (Kentaro Haneda)

December 20, 2009

Here’s a nice orchestral theme from Suite Wizardry II – The Legacy of Lylgamyn (1989) that oddly enough fits the holiday spirits – it must be the bold brass, airy strings, pipe organ, and harpsichord. This is a wonderful, peaceful opening theme that sets the stage for the fantasy epic outside the cloistered walls of your home. It is at once intimate and sweeping, recalling legends from days gone by.

Suite Wizardry II – The Legacy of Llylgamyn – “Opening Theme” (Kentaro Haneda)

Llylgamyn is a land that has been plagued by natural disasters. The heroes enter a volcano and ascend it to find the Orb of Scrying in the hoard of the dragon L’kbreth. The original Wizardry III was produced in 1983 in the US for the Apple II by Sir-tech Software and was later ported to the Famicom in 1990 as Wizardry II (they skipped a couple, kind of like what happened to Final Fantasy in the US). It’s a first-person dungeon crawler with big mazes to explore and many monsters to fight.

The album uses a synthesizer orchestra but also has a string quartet with two violins, a viola and a cello. The composer, Kentaro Haneda, is on the synthesizer. Kentaro Haneda, passed away back in 2007. He had composed the Famicom and Super Famicom soundtracks to the Wizardry series and worked on arrange albums of the Ys series as well as many anime soundtracks.


Immortal 3 – “Ghouls ‘n Ghosts” (arr. Henning Nugel & Ingo Nugel)

December 11, 2009

A lot of games ported in the late 80s from console and arcade to home computer saw major changes. Aside from differences in graphics and sometimes level design, the music was often altered by Western composers who enjoyed the greater storage capacity and flexibility of the Amiga as well as their freedom of expression. Ghouls ‘n Ghosts was one of these, with an original soundtrack composed by Tim Follin (Ecco the Dolphin, Rock ‘n Roll Racing). This remix comes from the fantastic Immortal 3, a collection of original and remixed Amiga tunes. The album is WELL worth picking up.

Immortal 3 – “Ghouls ‘n Ghosts” (arr. Henning and Ingo Nugel)

The Amiga version of Ghouls ‘n Ghosts has a noticeable change of tone from the original. For one thing, it had a lot more atmospheric, creepy music (with the Commodore 64 version featuring some really funky sound), and overall a more gritty, orchestral feel. The track here (“Level 2”), was remixed with a strong medieval feel to it. The pipes, guitar, and drum all come from the time period you’d expect to find knights – especially ones fighting the undead. I really love the flute in here – it gives a sense of dancing as well as ‘come on and follow me!’ It follows up quite nicely with the underlying beat of the guitar and drum.

While I enjoy Masaya Tsunemoto’s originals, it’s fantastic to see something new. Sadly, Immortal 3 will set you back 25 Euros, plus shipping for the two-CD set. It’s a shame they didn’t put this one on iTunes, unlike Symphonic Shades, which you can get for $10 there. There’s a reason nobody buys VGM, and it has nothing to do with the quality…

Along with his brothers Geoff and Mike, Tim composed plenty of famous soundtracks across a wide range of consoles (Amiga, Commodore 64, Sega Genesis, NES). In fact, their work is so original that Dwelling of Duels ran a special just on their work. Follin actually left game composition in the early 90s after becoming disenfranchised, mainly due to the irregularity of the work, but also citing “distress and illness” from the work. He now composes for film and TV. Henning and Ingo Nugel, another fraternal collaboration, have composed for Tom Clancy’s Endwar and Settlers II, among other titles.