Soundtrack Saturdays: Guilty Gear Xrd – Lily

Fun fact: Street Fighter II Turbo was the only fighting game I played as a kid. No, seriously. I didn’t know about King of Fighters, Tekken, Virtua Fighter, or any of the other iconic brawlers of the old school gaming generation. So imagine my shock when I first played Guilty Gear X2, one of the greatest fighting games on the PS2. It had incredibly detailed sprites, edgy and stylish characters, fantastic settings, stunning special effects, and an absolutely killer soundtrack. My world was rocked; for that time onward, I made a point of playing every Guilty Gear game I could get my hands on.

I wasn’t the only one, either. After years of re-releases, the fans finally got the next-gen sequel they’d demanded. Guilty Gear Xrd was recently released for the PS3 and PS4, just in time for the holiday season. And from what I’ve played so far, it’s exactly what everyone wanted: several badass characters, stellar voice acting, blisteringly fast-paced combat, incredibly technical gameplay, and graphics that utterly trounce any 2D fighter before it. Of course, it has a ridiculously awesome OST. There’s the usual blends of rock and metal, though there are a few more lighthearted tracks scattered throughout. Daisuke Ishiwatari, the legendary director, artist, writer, and composer behind the Guilty Gear series, happens to be a huge Queen fan. Tracks like “Lily” are fine examples of the work he does.

If you want more Guilty Gear Xrd, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: We Love Katamari – Katamari On The Swing

Last week, I posted one of my favorite songs from the We Love Katamari soundtrack. Upon further listening, I realized that I’d completely overlooked “Katamari On The Swing.” Pretty sure no one was expecting swing music in a Japanese niche game. As the replacement for “Katamari On The Rocks” as the game’s main theme, it set the tone of the sequel perfectly: it was bigger, grander, and flashier in every way. Compare the original intro to the one in the sequel, for example. This track was so popular, it got its own synthesized remix in subsequent titles.

If you want more We Love Katamari, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: We Love Katamari – Heaven’s Rain

When Katamari Damacy became a sleeper hit in 2004, Namco decided to take the popularity and run with it. A year after the original game, We Love Katamari was released on the PS2. It’s one of the rare examples of a sequel improving on every aspect of its predecessor. The already bizarre narrative was made even more meta, stages were scaled up, there were hundreds of more interactive objects, challenges were more difficult to complete, and there was far more variety in terms of settings and visuals. You want to build a snowman? Try making one with a head the size of a house. On the game’s final stage, your katamari gradually grew from the size of a small animal to rolling up entire countries in the span of a few minutes. Seriously, check it out.

The soundtrack was greatly expanded as well. While the first game utilized mostly rock and jazz, We Love Katamari delved more into instrumentals, beatboxing, and techno tracks. “Heaven’s Rain” is one of the more relaxing songs in the game. The soothing vocals, accordion, and strings always made me want to just kick back and finish the stage at a slow pace…then the beats kicked in.

If you want more We Love Katamari, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Persona 4 – Signs Of Love

Persona 4 is a serious contender for my all-time favorite game. I normally dislike RPGs, but the storytelling and character development in this are second to none. It’s got a wonderful, diverse cast; every individual has depth and well-rounded, believable personalities. In a game in which you spend as much time getting to know your peers as you do saving the world, having likeable characters is a must. The themes of identity, family, friendship, acceptance, loss, death, responsibility, and seeking the truth play heavily in its narrative. You get to help people overcome their personal flaws and demons, with healthy doses of Japanese mythology, Jungian psychology, and a murder mystery thrown in for good measure. I was lucky enough to be one of the first Western gamers to review it in 2008. I called it the PS2’s swan song, and I still think it’s true. Nor am I the only one; Persona 4 has become so popular, it’s gotten an updated release on the Vita, two spin-offs, a stage production, manga, anime, and countless other merchandise.

Part of the success can be attributed to its superb soundtrack. You’d never think a game about murder mysteries and monsters could have such upbeat and cheerful music. Shoji Meguro crafted some incredibly catchy beats, many of which have been covered in live concerts and been remixed multiple times. Signs Of Love is the theme that plays on some afternoons as you’re exploring the in-game town. You wish your life’s soundtrack was this good.

If you want more Persona 4, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Capcom VS SNK 2 – This Is True Love Makin’

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Much like Nintendo and Sega, the rivalry between Capcom and SNK was one of the defining aspects of 90’s video gaming. Both companies had immensely popular fighting games; it’d be impossible to find an arcade that didn’t have at least a couple of their cabinets. They had no qualms about taking little jabs at the other, either. Dan Hibiki, one of Street Fighter’s most iconic characters, was a parody of Art of Fighting’s main protagonists. After nearly a decade of mounting tension, someone finally had a bright idea: turn the rivalry into a game! Capcom VS SNK came out in 2000, but it was quickly overshadowed by sequel, Capcom VS SNK 2: Mark of the Millennium 2001. It had 48 characters spanning almost all of both companies’ libraries, intricate combat mechanics, a deliciously hammy announcer, slick animation, flashy special effects, and a metric ton of fanservice. It also had an absolutely killer soundtrack, as demonstrated by the London stage theme, This Is True Love Makin’. Few fighting game themes can get you to stand up and dance. Turn it up!

If you want more Capcom VS SNK 2, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Metal Gear Solid 3 – Snake Eater

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Metal Gear Solid 3 was one of the most anticipated games of its generation. After its unveiling, there were some doubts; the MGS games usually involved sneaking through buildings and industrialized areas, not the jungle depicted in the trailer. Once the game finally came out, all those doubts were quickly forgotten. You still played as Snake, albeit a previous version of him set in the 1960s Cold War. The Snake Eater theme deliberately took cues from the old James Bond movie intros. Since the in-game technology was designed to fit with the setting, gamers had to rely more on actual sneaking and use of the environment instead of high-tech equipment. And it showed. The natural sounds and ambiance were some of the finest on the PS2. You blended into the environment the old fashioned way: looking at your surroundings, and painting your body accordingly. Since guns attracted too much attention, you could take everyone down with newly-implemented grappling techniques.You want a tough boss battle? Try an hour-long duel against a near-invisible sniper. It’s even more awesome that it sounds.

What begins as a generic spy mission quickly evolves into a sad tale of trust, betrayal, and sacrifice. The passing of time and how it affects your beliefs is its defining theme. While it has plenty of silly moments – it wouldn’t be MGS without them – the plot gradually builds in tension and poignancy. Snake might be one of the greatest game heroes ever, but it comes at a terrible cost. For every moment of epic action, there’s tragedy to balance it. It’s not done in a cliched, way, either; by the time you beat the game, you’ll realize just how much effort went into humanizing what could’ve been a one-dimensional character. I won’t spoil the ending for you, but it’s become famous for being one of the few video games to make people cry. Look for spoiler videos at your own risk.

If you want more Snake Eater, you find the rest of the OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Shadow of the Colossus – In Awe of the Power

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A knight slaying a dragon is one of the most well-known legends in our historical canon. Of course, someone had to make a game about it eventually. Shadow of the Colossus is about a young man named Wander and his attempt to revive his dead girlfriend by slaying 16 gigantic beasts. Armed with nothing but a sword, a bow and arrow, and one of the best horses in video game history, Wander has to figure out a way to kill creatures that are hundreds times bigger and stronger than him. Seriously. His first enemy is about 70 feet tall, and the scale keeps pulling further back with each battle. The final boss is about the size of the Statue of Liberty! You ever see a bug crawling on your arm? This game depicts what it’s like from the bug’s perspective.

Yeah, it’s pretty epic. Since its release on the PS2 in 2006, Shadow of the Colossus has become a modern classic. In a game almost completely devoid of voice acting and other gaming conventions, the soundtrack needed to be able to convey the mood and atmosphere on its own. It pulled it off spectacularly; few soundtracks thrill you in one moment, and make you cry seconds later. In Awe of the Power captures those desperate minutes in which you’re making the perilous climb up a creature’s hairy back, and all you can is cling for your life.

If you want more Shadow of the Colossus, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.