It’s been a while since my last dedicated music post and nearly four years since I posted an entry in this particular series (see parts 1 and 2 back in 2014 and 2015*) but I thought why let it stay dead? I’ve been working on that second deep reads post, which is proving to be more of a pain in the ass than I thought, but all this music is helping power my brain after work hours along with the caffeine. I’m also in the middle of a 10+ hour round trip drive today across some boring state highways, and I’ve been refreshing my playlist and adding to it to get ready for that.
However, the main reason I decided to revive this series is that I’ve heard a few people online suggest that game music isn’t “real music”, which is utter horseshit. So here are seven tracks to prove them wrong. I’m sure they’d consider most or all of these “not real music” either, but judge for yourselves. As before, these are listed in no particular order — they’re just seven more tracks from games that I like.
1) Yousuke Yasai – Point of No Return (Eschatos, 2011)
Somehow I haven’t brought Yousuke Yasai up once on this site, but the guy is a long-time game music composer who does some great work. I especially like the soundtrack to Eschatos, a scrolling shooter released on the 360 and PC. This game was put out in 2011 but the music sounds like something out of one of the Mega Man X games (in fact, I think Yasai did some music for the Mega Man Battle Network series, so maybe there’s a connection there.) Point of No Return is my favorite piece on the soundtrack; it’s driving and powerful in the way you’d expect from a shoot-em-up, but also memorable and catchy.
2) Garoad – Every Day is Night (VA-11 HALL-A, 2016)
I know I’ve raved about VA-11 HALL-A enough here and mentioned how much I’m looking forward to Sukeban’s followup N1RV Ann-A. The bartending mini-game with a visual novel wrapped around it worked just about perfectly for me. But the soundtrack was a big part of the game’s success. Composer Garoad did an excellent job with the background music. Every piece adds a particular mood to the conversation Jill has with her mostly depressed/insane clientele, her weird boss, and her one more or less normal coworker. The game even lets the player set up the actual in-game soundtrack for the bar every night on the jukebox, so you can create any kind of mood you like with this music.
Every Day is Night is one of my favorites — I usually started each night in the game with this song. The title is apt; this and the rest of the soundtrack have a great nighttime feel, very fitting for this game that takes place entirely at night. Though I also really like Safe Haven, the piece that plays when Jill is home from her shift at the bar.
3) Kenichi Tsuchiya – Heretic Mansion – Shining Heaven (Shin Megami Tensei III: Nocturne, 2003)
It’s a piece from Nocturne. I know, what a surprise. This one wasn’t written by Shoji Meguro, though. Composer Kenichi Tsuchiya was also responsible for a fair number of the tracks in the game, including the organ piece Heretic Mansion – Shining Heaven, the theme that plays when you visit the Cathedral of Shadows during a full Kagutsuchi phase (if you haven’t played Nocturne I know this probably sounds like nonsense, but it really does mean something.) Tsuchiya has written quite a bit of music for the SMT games and spinoffs like Persona and Devil Summoner, and I’m sorry that I’m only now getting around to mentioning the guy, because he is worthy of notice. There are a few different Heretic Mansion themes, and they’re all pretty ominous, but this is the only one that’s performed entirely on what sounds like a giant church organ. It sounds like it came straight out of the Baroque period. Great stuff if you’re into that.
4) Shoji Meguro – A Way of Life (Persona 3 Portable, 2009)
Even so, I can’t go without listing at least one Shoji Meguro song. This time I’m going with the opening theme to Persona 3 Portable, the PSP port of Persona 3 that included the female protagonist who’s now part of a weird multi-universe canon along with the male protagonist since they can’t exist at the same time in the same game. It’s no wonder they haven’t tried this out since.
Fans argue over whether P3P or Persona 3 FES, the expanded PS2 version of the original, is a better game. I prefer FES, but I still like the P3P exclusive music tracks, which include A Way of Life. It’s just a catchy pop song. That’s really all it is. But Meguro is really damn good at writing catchy pop songs, so this one is worth a mention. There’s no Lotus Juice either, so if you’re not a fan of his this is a good track to check out. I like him, but his rapping can get old sometimes. There’s a reason I didn’t put “Mass Destruction” on this list instead — it’s a good song, but it’s been burned into my brain so deeply that I can never listen to it again.
5) Tee Lopes – Lights, Camera, Action! (Sonic Mania, 2017)
One of the best things about Sonic Mania was how it finally killed all the “Sonic was never good” bullshit going around the reviewer and critic circles. The game’s music also lived up to the quality of the Genesis soundtracks thanks to Tee Lopes, a composer who had previously worked on remixes of music from Sonic and other series. Lights, Camera, Action! is the first stage thrme in Sonic Mania and sets the game’s mood perfectly. It sounds like a technologically updated version of one of the Sonic Genesis pieces, which is exactly what I was looking for (well, the same can be said for Sonic Mania as a whole.)
6) Toby Fox – Spider Dance (Undertale, 2015)
Shit. Somehow I’ve gone all this time without even bringing up Undertale. I don’t even need to tell you about it, right? It was a massive hit back in 2015 when it came out. I guess a surprise hit as well, because I didn’t know it was a thing until it was out and everyone was raving about this weird indie pacifist RPG. I wasn’t quite as in love with it as some people were, but I did enjoy Undertale a lot; it obviously had plenty of time, effort, and care put into it. However, I did love the soundtrack without any qualifications. Game creator and composer Toby Fox wrote one of the best game soundtracks ever, in fact — nearly every piece in the game was so memorable that they stuck in my mind for weeks and months afterward.
It’s hard to pick this time, but I think my absolute favorite Undertale piece is Spider Dance. The frantic feel fits the mood of the scene perfectly; it’s just the kind of music that should play when you’re fighting against a deadly spider woman or trying to dodge all her attacks if you’re doing the pacifist thing. I guess I might be in a small minority here in saying this is my favorite; everyone really seems to love Megalovania, and people will even get teary over Toriel’s theme and all that. Those are great pieces too, but I just like Spider Dance the best.
7) Masafumi Takada & Jun Fukuda – Sleeping Intermission (Grow Up Nyan Nyan) (Contact, 2005)
Here’s a bizarre song to end with. Contact was itself a weird game, a Suda51-written DS RPG that didn’t get a lot of attention when it was released and that since seems to have slipped into near-obscurity. I reviewed it years ago here, and I haven’t played it since, but I still listen to the game’s music from time to time. The Contact OST was composed by Masafumi Takada and Jun Fukuda, both big pros in the field who also worked on other Suda51 stuff as well as titles like God Hand.
Sleeping Intermission might be a weird choice to pull from the Contact soundtrack. It’s the song that plays when you send the protagonist to bed to heal his injuries and pass time in the game world. However, during this intermission you get to play with the Professor’s pet Mochi by tapping him with the stylus while the hero sleeps it off. It’s a bit strange like everything else in this game, and the same is true of the music, especially those digitized synth voice parts that play throughout. But shit, I just like it. I liked Contact too. It’s worth playing if you have a DS, a 3DS, or an emulator. Check it out. I still think it deserved to be remembered more than it is.
And that’s it for now. I’ll go back to being on semi-vacation here.
* Yeah, I know part 1 says “seven” in the title here but only contains six if you read the actual post. I think I was too drunk to know what I was doing at the time. That’s a safe bet to make back when I posted it.