Posts Tagged ‘Metroid’

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Metroid Prime 2 – “Torvus Bog” (arr. Metroid Metal)

October 16, 2010

Metroid Prime 2: Echoes has often been considered one of the black sheep in the series (no pun intended). A coupling of onerously long levels with forced backtracking through the dull environments of Dark Aether made for a game that, while featuring a strong atmosphere of decay and despair, lacked in the polished gameplay the series was known for. The game’s soundtrack was also mostly miss, with plenty of dull, atmospheric minimalist pieces for the Dark World and droning or whining pieces for Light Aether. However, some of these tracks, particularly “Torvus Bog“, have become favorites among mixers. The best of these is “Torvus Bog” by Metroid Metal.

Metroid Prime 2 – “Torvus Bog” (arr. Metroid Metal)

I have to say I am a sucker for Metroid Metal music – but that’s ok, considering their work is very good, in some places serving almost superior to the original. “Torvus Bog” is one of these cases; Grant Henry took Kenji Yamamoto’s original piece and picked up the tempo for a more active song with wailing, melancholic guitars that brood the vibes of the swamp (and again, it is this atmosphere that draws me so much to this arrange). Whereas the original piece contained atmosphere for the rain, swamp water, sloshing ground, and muck of the bog, the Metroid Metal rendition is energetic, forceful, immediately dumping you straight into the swamp. The drums keep time, sticks like a ticking clock, and the guitars sing their long notes that ooze through the speakers, immersing the space between in a melodic soup that seems to stretch beyond the boundaries of the walls. There’s a nice break at 2:44 and again at 3:19 of mostly new material that’s thematically linked to the rest of the song, the bass serving progressive four-note base. After this, the track presses onward with the final refrain, mournful wails on the guitar that build to an epic, drum-filled finale. This is awesome stuff and one of my favorite tracks that Metroid Metal has done.

DarkeSword (Shariq Ansari) has also made a notable “Torvus Bog” mix, “Torvus Clockwork“, which integrates the Submerged Temple theme with the Bog (and halfway through waterlike piano arrange of the “Main Theme”). There is an excellent layering of the different themes, supported by the ever-present industrial pounding and slurred hiss of the percussion. Definitely worth checking out, but doesn’t possess the sheer emotion I find behind Metroid Metal’s version.

Actually, there’s another awesome metal mix too, this time by Vangough (Clay Winthrow). “Torvus Bog” here is actually an arrange of both the “Title Theme” and “Torvus Bog” in one epic 7-minute song. Vangough is an expert guitarsman in the making, and mixes his work with pianos and synth choir. The melody of “Torvus Bog” is carried mainly by a whistling synth that sounds just like the one out of the game. As such, this arrange is more faithful to the original, retaining the haze and dampness of the original, but always supported by that epic guitar. I actually place it second to Metroid Metal’s version, though nothing to the detriment of Vangough’s work. The album is $10, and it’s a nice selection of some popular and rarely-heard themes. (Sorry man, I still owe you an album review, but I been helluva busy!).

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Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – “Title Theme” (Kenji Yamamoto)

September 7, 2010

Because I like Metroid so much, here’s an encore piece, the “Title Theme” from Metroid Prime 3: Corruption (2008). An exceptionally epic piece, the theme sports a somber male choir supported by high sopranos to create a dynamic range that sounds almost lyrical. The choir is in turn supported by a sweeping drum like the crashing of ocean waves (0:29) and rattling snare taps that sound straight out from Terminator (0:50). This burst of emotion is accompanied by the flaming planet displayed on the title screen pictured below. This combination hits the heart and mind in all the right places, providing a somber memorial full of sadness, desperation, and the hope of forgiveness. The track builds to a climax at 1:08, breaking into strings dully thrumming the final notes of the original Metroid theme, a prelude through the depths of space. The track loops at 1:26. It is a truly sweeping prelude to the series finale that really demonstrates Kenji Yamamoto’s finest work.

Metroid Prime 3: Corruption – “Title Theme” (Kenji Yamamoto)

Metroid Metal produced an outstanding arrangement of the “Title Theme” that incorporated “Bryyo” as well. The piece opens with high-pitched guitar ambience, a slow fade like the sunrise before exploding into the opening section of the main theme at 1:41. Brooding, minor-key guitars emphasize the sadness and melancholy of the song, a theme that permeates the entire game. There’s a nice acoustic break and solo here at 3:30 that provides time for reflection and has some interesting guitar echoes at 4:30 that sound a bit like StarCraft. The track then transitions into the heavy bass of Bryyo with its heavy, tribal beat and exotic twang. At just over seven minutes, “Theme/Bryyo” is mighty epic. It saw a rework on Metroid Metal’s recently-released EP Expansion Pack with better recording quality, but minus the acoustic section.

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Metroid II: Return of Samus – “Surface Runner” (Ryohji Yoshitomi)

September 6, 2010

To finish up Metroid week, here’s an old favorite, the main caves theme from Metroid II: Return of Samus (1992), which has been unofficially named “Surface Runner” (thanks to a remix of the same name). See, one of the problems with Nintendo is they rarely, if ever, give names to their tracks, and when they do, it’s usually ‘Main BGM” or “Stage 1” or something boring like that.

Metroid II: Return of Samus – “Samus Appearance Fanfare” (Ryohji Yoshitomi)

“Surface Runner” (Ryohji Yoshitomi)

After the “Samus Appearance Fanfare,” which sounds like ocean waves beating on a distant, wind-whipped subterranean shore, Samus gets rolling into action, with opening notes that immediately scream, “Let’s go forward and see what’s out there!” “Surface Runner” exudes confidence with solid long notes in major scale and easy steps between. The melody is easy and incredibly catchy too, with all four layers cooperating to create a rich tapestry of low, high, and mid-range audio; definitely the highlight of the soundtrack. There are some great scraping drumlines, too that sound like bugs slipping through the rocks. Pay special attention as well to the end of the second part at 1:43 – this is actually a variation placing greater emphasis on the strings. Because the second half is identical to the first, aside from this variation, the track I uploaded is actually only 2:20 instead of the song’s usual 4:30, though I could probably listen to it the whole day.

As everyone’s favorite Metroid II tune, “Surface Runner” has seen a lot of love in the remix department. One of the oldest is Richter’s “Surface Runner 388“, from VGMix 2.0 which the fan title of this song came from. The track has some pretty cheesy synths and is wholly 8-bit in spirit with a kind of 80s rock vibe going on. David Dude did a similar-style mix, “Tunnel Vision” (also VGMix 2.0) in dance/electronica. VonRichter also had some pretty slick remixes going for his Project SR388, which has sadly fallen the way of most fan projects.

However, the real king of mixes goes to Metroid Metal for “The Tunnel“, which is an absolutely killer rock arrange. Read the rest of this entry ?

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Metroid: Other M – “Theme” (Kuniaki Haishima)

September 5, 2010

Metroid: Other M has been a fairly controversial title, most of it stemming from fans’ strong emotions towards how they think Samus should be viewed as a character. The game has also had a large split regarding the soundtrack, which becomes pretty obvious when we consider the majority of the album is atmospherically minimalistic pieces. One of the exceptions is the “Theme,” a piano piece from the game’s epilogue – a track that was also used as the theme for Metroid.com back in March. This track in particular has received a tremendous range of feedback, mostly negative from fans who expected something a lot more edgy, but others, like the game’s director Yoshio Sakamoto, were moved to tears. I personally fall somewhere in-between, as there is something about this song that draws me to it, perhaps its fragility.

Metroid: Other M – “Theme” (Kuniaki Haishima)

The “Theme” does not have an actual name (at least not yet!). It is an emotionally stirring piece, with a beautifully delicate piano that encapsules the core of Samus’ emotions that have been denied by her tragic past. There is no instrument other than the piano. Its call and response of the piano notes is a recollection, a calling back to an old friend, a distant memory, a nostalgia, and the solitude by the window. The sadness in the piano provides a deep emotional undercurrent that Samus feels would make her too vulnerable if expressed, and the melody’s inability to coalesce suggests the impossibility of closure. It’s truly a wonderful piece and one that is given unfair treatment by hardcore gamers obsessed with edgy gunmetal gray apocalypses and smack-talk.

There are two versions of this song, the second being shorter and less-developed. The track was also played during a cutscene, to great emotional effect.

Kuniaki Haishima is better known for his work on anime, but he has also composed for several games, including Kowloon’s Gate and Siren 2. These atmospheric tracks seem to fit best with Metroid.

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Metroid Fusion – “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (Minako Hamano)

September 4, 2010

Unlike a lot of people, I really love Metroid Fusion (2002). Granted, it wasn’t as awesome as Super Metroid, but then again, there aren’t too many games that are as great. Long story segments aside, the game has wonderful controls, a great new enemy, and was a blast to play. (In fact, I beat it in the store – I played the game the whole way through on the store kiosk!) I am also a fan of the soundtrack, even though I don’t love the Game Boy Advance sound system. The GBA sound system certainly gets the job done for portable gaming, but it lacks the booming bass and the sheer weight of the instruments that was present in the SNES. Compare any SNES soundtrack where the composer knew what he was doing to even the best GBA soundtrack, and to me, there’s just no contest. However, for Metroid Fusion, the composers were able to produce some pretty boomy music out of the system, and my favorite of which is the main theme to the game, “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area.”

Metroid Fusion – “Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (Minako Hamano)

“Sector 1 (SRX) SR388 Return Area” (a rather self-explanatory and boring title indeed) plays in both the opening story sequence as well as the first level of the game, a recreation of the SR388 ecosystem on a biological research station called BSL. Keeping in line with the theme of action, terrible monsters on the loose, drama, and intrigue, “Sector 1” makes use of high-stepping notes played on strings and piano that rise and fall with the kind of exposition you would expect. It jumps straight into the action with an introduction that follows the rules of perfect game audio, a handful of solid notes that is instantly recognizable in not just five seconds, but a half-second of playback – not only are we jumping immediately into the game, but we are also returning to the Metroid universe for the first time in 8 years. At the same time, the song has a low drone and booming drums that gives the piece a great edgy sound and about as much weight as you can get out of the GBA. The track has great development, playing more like a rondo than anything else, with a short theme that is constantly reinterpreted and interspersed with new material. In fact, the track is so long, it seems that the piece had to have looped somewhere, but this is not the case – its loop point is at 2:33, making it an incredibly long piece for the GBA. The theme develops slowly, rising and falling to a height of drama at 2:05. It follows roughly with the introductory cutscene, which has lots of dramatic reveals, but also works great for the SRX sector which is full of atmospheric mist from the X parasites clogging the ventilation systems.

There have been surprisingly few arranges of the “Sector 1” theme, considering how awesome the song is. One of the most promising was the orchestral version used in the E3 trailer, but sadly this was never available as a clean track. Thankfully, Minako Hamano remixed “Sector 1” in Super Smash Bros. Brawl in a very dramatic mix that was heavy on synths, strings, and trumpets, with flute support for the intense sections. She moves deftly from one instrument to the next, with heavy synth lines sprinkled throughout, creating a dramatic melodic landscape that mirrors the song’s development. In some places too it reminds me of Jonathan Dunn’s work with Jurassic Park 2 – both have very similar atmosphere. Sadly, the piece is a little shorter than the original, with a loop ending around 1:55. Also, Metroid Metal released a spectacular arrangement this year that’s long, epic, and thoroughly enjoyable.

I’m a little disappointed though that there hasn’t been a remix that really capitalizes on the boominess inherent to the original piece. I can’t help but feel that if this were composed on the SNES, it would have broken more than a few windows with bass cranked…

Anyway, Metroid Fusion was composed by Minako Hamano (Super Metroid, Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening) and Akira Fujiwara (Super Princess Peach, Tetris DS), though the audio was directed by Kenji Yamamoto. I took a guess that Minako Hamano composed “Sector 1”, given that she did the remix from Brawl.

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Metroid Prime 2 – Echoes – “Title Theme” (Kenji Yamamoto)

September 3, 2010

In 2002, Metroid returned to the world of gaming with Metroid Prime, the debut title by Retro Studios. A master work for a company’s first game, Metroid Prime redefined not only the first-person genre but also brought the musical score of the series down a new path of electronica and X-Files-style whistling. The tracks are in some cases hit or miss, but the game’s sequel, Metroid Prime 2 – Echoes (2004), contained a title theme that solidified many of the traits found in the first game’s score while providing an emotional impact that has moved some fans to tears.

Metroid Prime 2 – Echoes – “Title Theme” (Kenji Yamamoto)

The “Title Theme” opens with atmospheric chirps and warbles before moving to the famous whistling notes of the Metroid Prime series main theme. 28 seconds in, a guitar is added, and from there, the track becomes even more brooding and introspective, its somber choir reciting the ballad of the echoes of a lost golden age.  The combination of whistling and choir builds to a crescendo at 1:53 before quickly fading again into atmosphere.

For all intents and purposes, the loop ends at about 2:00. However, for this version of the song from the Metroid Prime Trilogy music gallery, the ending has been modified for a longer fade and atmosphere. It’s actually quite fortunate that the Trilogy offered a remastered track as Metroid Prime and Metroid Prime 2 had a horrible audio system that implemented clicks, pops, and reverbs into the music, producing unclean audio. For the Trilogy sound gallery, at least a few tracks were remastered to prevent these issues. Note that the clicks and pops had nothing to do with the composition but were instead a result of the audio engine. One game audio expert, Prime Blue, has managed to produce clean rips of Metroid Prime. He is currently finishing work on a clean rip of Metroid Prime 2, which will have all the audio errors fixed.

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Metroid: Other M – “Vs. Ridley” (Kuniaki Haishima)

September 2, 2010

Super Metroid had several classic themes that found their way to many other games in the series. One of these is the theme of Ridley, everyone’s favorite enemy from the series (aside from the Metroids, of course). Ridley’s theme (and the big dragon himself) has appeared in Metroid Prime, Metroid Prime 3, Metroid Fusion, Metroid Prime Pinball, and now Metroid: Other M. I think Kuniaki Haishima’s rendition is the best.

Metroid: Other M – “Vs. Ridley” (Kuniaki Haishima)

“Vs. Ridley” is an intense theme with some wicked drumwork to put you on your toes. Short bursts of notes replicate the desperate fight and quick pounding of the controller to fire beams and launch those missiles (much faster in the original version). The high notes at 0:23 recall Ridley swooping overhead, a giant monster pouncing on Samus in a deadly attack. The original theme is quite short at about 30 seconds, but Haishima added lots of new material, particularly a big strings section at 0:55 and adds several loops as a kicker.

“Vs. Ridley” was originally composed by Minako Hamano, who also worked on Metroid Fusion and Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. Her style provides a unique touch to the series, from the Maridia themes to the boss music.

Kuniaki Haishima has composed music for anime; Metroid: Other M is his debut. He worked on Appleseed, Gasaraki, and Blue Gender, all of which contain some flavor that is a little similar to Metroid.

Among the remixes of this track is Enki’s slowly-paced orchestral mix, “Wrestling the Beast” from VGMix 1.0. It’s certainly an interesting take, but not as energetic as the other mixes. More enjoyable is Yusuke Takehama’s arrange from Super Smash Bros. Brawl that includes a heavy guitar, lead synth instead of trumpets, and some funky synth percussion. In many ways, it comes off as a Super Metroid 2.0.