Thursday, December 1, 2011

Songs to Grow On: World 3 Map (as performed by Aivi Tran)

I just had to share this before I went to bed. This is Aivi Tran's rendition of the third world map theme in Super Mario Galaxy 2. She adds some very interesting flourish and really fleshes out the tune on the piano. I hope you enjoy!

"World 3 Map" - Super Mario Galaxy 2 (as performed by Aivi Tran)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Cutting Edge of Notion

Getting to watch a video game music composer perform his own pieces live is a unique and wonderful experience. Nobuo Uematsu performs for an audience periodically, as does Koji Kondo. This is a video of Motoi Sakuraba performing the battle theme from Star Ocean: Till the End of Time. This performance shows how comfortable Sakuraba is when in front of a piano synthesizer (and how much he loves to include rock organ in his compositions). Enjoy!

 "Cutting Edge of Notion" - Star Ocean: Till the End of Time (written and performed by Motoi Sakuraba)

Saturday, September 10, 2011

Composer Spotlight: Motoi Sakuraba

With some of gaming's most famous RPG series under his belt, Motoi Sakuraba is one of the finest and most prolific video game composers in the field today. He's composed the music for the Tales series, the Star Ocean series, the Baten Kaitos games, the Golden Sun series, both Mario Tennis and Mario Golf, and a host of others. He transcends not only genre boundaries, mixing pastoral, orchestral sounds with a rock fusion sound, but also company boundaries, as he has worked for as many as ten different developers thus far. But what is it that makes his music so great?

Motoi Sakuraba

Monday, August 15, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Sulyya Springs

I can't think of much to write at the moment. I have a few Composer Spotlights running through my head, but those always take so much research and dedication, neither of which I have at the moment. I didn't just want to give a Song to Grow On though; so, I thought I'd share a song that's incredibly special to me. This is "Sulyya Springs" from Final Fantasy XIII:

"Sulyya Springs" - Final Fantasy XIII

For those curious as to why this is my favorite song (and are braced for some personal emotionality), click below.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Sam's Sort-of Reviews: Catherine (PS3/Xbox 360)

I've been having trouble thinking of which games I'd like to write about. I was anxiously awaiting word back from Killscreen Daily, a video game publication, about whether or not they would accept my pitches for articles for their next issue, but I recently received word that my pitches were rejected. Better luck next time, I suppose? In the meantime, my sister and I just finished our first playthrough of Atlus's new game, Catherine, and I thought I'd add even more support to the critical acclaim that it has already gotten. I'll mostly be talking about the music and the choices made by composer Shoji Meguro, but first, some background information.

Those expecting a hentai game when they bought Catherine were sorely mistaken.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Interview: Composer and Pianist Aivi Tran

A couple years ago, I was surfing the Internet when I came across a Youtube channel created by a lady named Aivi Tran (also known as "waltzforluma"). Judging by the name, I figured it would have plenty of videos related to video games. Little did I know that almost all of her videos were performances of her own arrangements of video game music. Aivi is an accomplished pianist, arranger, and composer with a passion for video game music. Given her many beautiful arrangements, I recently contacted her to ask for an interview. I soon learned that she also has quite a way with words!

Aivi Tran

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Planet Wisp

This week, I rented Sonic Colors just to try it out. I'd read drastically contrasting reviews (although I've since realized to never listen to anything Jim Sterling has to say), and I hadn't really touched any Sonic games since Sonic and The Secret Rings (which was terrible). I thought I'd give it a shot and see for myself. In my humble opinion, it's pretty fantastic. Gameplay-wise, it's what Sonic Adventure 2 should have been, and the music was composed by five of the six people who worked on Sonic Unleashed, so you know it's good. In fact, a detailed review is to come.

In the meantime, however, I thought I'd share this incredibly relevant piece from Sonic Colors, originally composed by Kenichi Tokoi and performed by the always amazing Aivi Tran. I just received her responses to my questions, so my interview with her will be posted within the next couple days. This arrangement was a collaboration between Aivi and Dave Harris, with Aivi providing the piano and Dave providing the synthesized accompaniment. This rendition is what finally convinced me to rent Sonic Colors in the first place, as a matter of fact. I hope you enjoy it as much as I do. (Also, keep a watchful ear and eye out for a small clip of Green Hill Zone and some Sonic pixel art!)

Planet Wisp (Act 1) - Sonic Colors (as arranged by Dave Harris and performed by Aivi Tran)

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Interview: William Reyes of The OneUps

Since this blog is about all things video game music related, I thought that I would try to get some inside info from people actually in the thick of the business. The OneUps are one of the more famous video game music cover bands in the nation, and I was lucky enough to get an interview with them for the blog!

The OneUps, from left to right: Jared Dunn (drums, keyboard), Mustin (bass, keyboard), Tim Yarbrough (electric guitar), and William Reyes (guitar, guitar synth)

Friday, July 8, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Zozo (by The OneUps)

This post kind of acts like preparation for my next post (if all goes as planned). In Final Fantasy VI, Zozo is a town filled with liars. The concept is an interesting one; although it's used to solve puzzles, it also transfers to the atmosphere of the town itself. While not inherently evil, it is certainly seedy, and the constant rain and enemy encounters in the area only reinforce this idea. This rendition of the town theme by The OneUps captures this lightly malevolent nature with the use of jazzy saxophone and fiddle. I hope you enjoy it!

"Zozo" - Final Fantasy VI (arranged by The OneUps)

Monday, July 4, 2011

Super Mario Kart, or, The Kart Racer that Could

When I was just a wee lad, I had a very gradual introduction to video games. Our family started with Gameboys (complete with Tetris), and when I was around four years old, Dad got a Super Nintendo Entertainment System, which my sister and I promptly usurped from him. At that point of childhood, I wasn't privy to recent technological advancements in the gaming industry. Therefore, when I saw a Mario Kart 64 demo at Walmart, I thought that this magnificent game was available for the SNES.

Complete with Mario, Wario, and narcoleptic Peach.

So, when I went to McVan's Video Game Store and got what I thought was the same game for the Super NES, I was somewhat shocked at what I saw.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Nautilus

I don't know why I haven't posted more songs from Final Fantasy in this blog yet. It seems like the obvious choice when speaking of video game music. But I digress. This song from Final Fantasy XIII is played in Nautilus, an entertainment city for the residents of the game's world. As fantastic and sweeping as much of the song is, it still has a few sweeter, sadder moments, implying that not everything is as bright and innocuous as it seems. This song, written by the amazing Masashi Hamauzu, has really touched me recently, so I thought I would share it with you as well.

"Nautilus" - Final Fantasy XIII

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Composer Spotlight: Yasunori Mitsuda

Yasunori Mitsuda was probably the first video game composer I became interested in (after Nobuo Uematsu), and he is most likely the reason I've become so interested in game composers at all. When I was in high school and was working at an independent bookstore, my boss's brother lent me the Yasunori Mitsuda tribute album, "Time and Space," along with a copy of Chrono Trigger (which, up to that point, I had not played). Hearing not only Chrono Trigger's original, infectious music, but also the brilliant orchestrations of that music on the tribute album, I knew that I had to learn more about the man behind this score. Mitsuda's been through quite a bit to deliver on these albums that we know and love today, and he certainly deserves these accolades.

Mitsuda, as he appears on his album "Colours of Light"

Friday, June 17, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Koholint Ballad of Life (Overworld Theme)

This summer, I'm going to do things that are productive. I'm going to better myself. I'm going to not waste the time that I have. One of my loftier goals is to arrange enough music to be able to start a video game music a cappella choir when I return in the fall. Of course, that'll be difficult, but I really hope I'm up for the challenge (and, well, although Northwestern already has an abundance of a cappella groups, none of them have this same schtick). I want to do more obscure songs, but it is familiar tunes that really draw a crowd. This song takes a bit from both columns and is one of my favorite renditions of the Legend of Zelda theme; as such, it will be one of the first songs I will try to arrange for this new choir. Presented below are the original Gameboy version and the Super Smash Bros. Brawl version of the Overworld theme in The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening, originally composed by Minako Hamano.

"Koholint Ballad of Life" - The Legend of Zelda: Link's Awakening DX

"Overworld/Tal Tal Heights Mix" - Super Smash Bros. Brawl

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Songs to Grow On: War

This weekend, I'm performing in an anniversary show for my high school's theatre program. The program has been around for 45 years now, and hundreds of people who had participated in our high school's theatre come back to our hometown to perform in this fantastic musical revue. In honor of this musical theatre setting in which I've been placed, I thought I would share one of the more theatrical songs in video games. Although I've not played the Sam and Max series (with music composed by Jared Emerson-Johnson), I'm acquainted with their fantastic and (mostly) witty sense of humor. This is performed after Max (the crazed-looking bunny) becomes president due to... extenuating circumstances. It's fun to note that this song seems to parody itself by copying the same initial lyrical structure of the Edwin Starr song of the same name and saying the exact opposite (that war is good for you and for me, and not good for absolutely nothing). The campy style and over-the-top performance of this song covers up the tragedies of war for its practical and glorious applications; given that the entire series is dripping with sarcastic humor, this song does an excellent job of exposing a truth by stating its opposite.

"War" - Sam & Max Save the World

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Bridging the Gap: When Video Game Music and Popular Music Collide

Sometimes it's hard to explain what appeal video game music has. Part of it is its versatility: video game music can come from any genre, and it often creates its own genre to enhance the experience. In this way, it emulates popular music and its continuous evolution. Sometimes, though, both of them overlap; composers for video games use pieces of popular music to add a deeper significance to the moment, or songs originally composed for video games become so popular that they permeate our culture.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Rosalina and the Lumas (aka I'M STILL HERE)

I know it's been a while. I'm ashamed of myself too. But life has been kind of pulling me in many directions, and I haven't had time to put my best effort into my next article (which is currently a work in progress). In the meantime, I thought I would share with you a song that has been helping me get through some nerve-wracking moments I've had these past few days. Somehow, listening to this always seems to calm my nerves. I also adore Mahito Yokota (lead composer for both Super Mario Galaxy and Super Mario Galaxy 2). I hope you enjoy it as much as I do.

"Rosalina and the Lumas" - Super Mario Galaxy 2

Friday, May 13, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Super Mario World - Ending Theme

I haven't really paid homage to any classic games in this blog yet, so I figured it was about time. This song plays during the credit sequence of Super Mario World, composed by the prodigious Koji Kondo. It's characterized by a simple, straightforward tune that, halfway through, is colored in a "stage show extravaganza"sort of way.

Credit Sequence - Super Mario World

I also happened across this rendition of the ending theme today. It's played by a band of six cousins, all on different instruments. It's not a professional recording by any means, but it's exciting to hear the song played live (especially by a family band).

RobinLSL - Super Mario World Ending Theme

Have a wonderful weekend! I hope to have my next full post up by next week, so stay tuned!

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light - Something Old and Something New

Final Fantasy: The 4 Heroes of Light came out for the Nintendo DS in America in fall of last year. While the game garnered generally good reviews, it hasn't gotten very much attention in the states. It's not a perfect game, to be sure, and perhaps the older style of early Final Fantasy games was not something that a younger generation of gamers had any interest in returning to. Or maybe the game was just too gosh darn cute.

Friday, May 6, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Basic Step

I apologize for not having a full-length post in a while. A deluge of work in school on top of recovering from this illness has left me without much time. I did want to share a neat song shaped by a fantastic arranger, though. This song is from the Basic Step aerobics portion of Wii Fit. This tune, originally composed by Toru Minegishi, is catchy in and of itself, but expert arranger Aivi Tran took this piece and jazzed it up with her own unique flavor. I absolutely adore her music, and I plan to write a post about her eventually. More people need to hear her stuff!

Happy Friday! Go out and play!

"Basic Step" - Wii Fit (as arranged by Aivi Tran)

Friday, April 29, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Seaside Town

Yoko Shimomura has written so many songs that it's hard to do her justice within the confines of a single article (especially one that's written while I was so ill). Here is one of her more upbeat songs from Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars. This song is very fitting for a seaside shanty town, and this music only appears after you have rid the town of the evil Yardovich. It's a little short, but I think it provides a nice, optimistic start to the weekend. Here's to the wonderful weekend ahead!

"Seaside Town" -- Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Composer Spotlight: Yoko Shimomura

Recently, a friend of mine and I had planned to start a video game music Internet show in which we would highlight different games and composers in the industry. Although the plan never really got off the ground due to schoolwork, we did have a few ideas for the show lined up. Our first episode was going to feature Yoko Shimomura, the composer for Super Mario RPG: Legend of the Seven Stars, the Kingdom Hearts series, the Mario & Luigi series, and many other games. She's one of the leading female composers in the field, and she seemed like an appropriate person to kick-start our show with. Since our show didn't become a reality, I'm hoping that this blog can be a source of information on leading video game music composers as well.

Friday, April 22, 2011

Songs to Grow On: Chun-nan - Night

It's Friday! Almost time to start the weekend. I thought I'd share one of the songs I've been listening to a lot this week. After the Sonic Unleashed article, I finally downloaded the entire soundtrack and have been obsessed with how wonderful it is. This is another song that's really captured me, and I hope you enjoy it too.

"Chun-nan - Night"

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Warning! Danger! A Brief Look at Status-Indicative Music

One of the great things about video game music is that, like film orchestration, it underscores the actions that are taking place and sets the mood for the situation you're in. If you're fighting an enemy, the music often changes to something more upbeat with perhaps a darker timbre. If you're in a small town and surrounded by friendly villagers, the music is most likely calm and melodious. In addition, music cues are often triggered by one's effectiveness within the environment. For example, if you win a battle or complete a stage, a victory fanfare often plays to indicate that you've done a swell job. Conversely, if you (or a supporting character) die(s), then a lachrymose dirge may accompany you (or, you may get a "whoopsy-daisy" ditty).

As the music in video games (and the technology to support it) evolved, these soundtracks gained the ability to travel right along with the player and his or her performance. It's an experience that is unique to video games, and the assault on your ears may be what spurs you into victory.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Sonic Unleashed, or, The Hidden Treasure in a Hairy Situation

I had to think long and hard about what to talk about in my first real post. There are thousands upon thousands of games out there, and there are so many soundtracks to talk about. However, the soundtrack for this particular game has been buzzing about my mind (and my iTunes library) for a while now. Why this one, though? It's certainly not a classic; it's not even a great game.

Friday, April 15, 2011

"It starts."

Starting a blog is hard work. First you have to think of an idea that you want to communicate with other people. Then, you have to think of a way to effectively communicate that idea to people. Blogs have a purpose, for one reason or another: entertainment, education, an outlet for various creative ideas that would be lost otherwise. Hopefully this blog will be that for me.

I believe two things. Firstly, I believe that video game music holds a great value to our society in the modern age. The scores from video games literally encompass every existing genre and create some of their own, which is not an easy feat. It's music that expresses action and emotion, and it's designed to elicit memory from its players. Secondly, I believe that video game music is unjustly disregarded as an art form. This may stem from the fact that video games themselves are not yet considered an art form (due to their underpinnings in commercialism), but this is no reason to disregard the work that these composers put into expressing the environment of a virtual world with the power of music.

Hopefully these ideas will be clearer after I write a few posts. I'll end this post with a video game song that may challenge the idea that music from video games is "not real music."

You'd better believe that Professor Layton will be getting his own post.

If all goes as planned, I shall have my first real update soon. So, stay tuned!