Soundtrack Saturdays: Hyrule Warriors – Solidus Cave

As you might’ve noticed, I’ve been playing a lot of Hyrule Warriors Legends since it came out last month. By no means is it a perfect game – I’ve covered it in my recent review – but the music undeniably awesome. I never expected that an official Zelda game would feature rock remixes of its iconic music; its themes have generally gravitated toward classical and instrumental works. However, these versions fit perfectly with the game’s style. When you’re outnumbered a thousand to one in an battle against evil and still winning, you’d want to accompanied with some epic music.

If you want more Hyrule Warriors, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Metal Gear Solid V – Love Deterrence (Acoustic)

I haven’t had much free time to play video games lately, but I’m finally starting to dig into the backlog I’ve accumulated. The first title on my list was Metal Gear Solid V: Ground Zeroes. You might recall that I’m a huge Metal Gear fan, and for good reason; the series has some of the best cinematic storytelling and cleverly designed gameplay mechanics in the industry. Ground Zeroes wasn’t a full game; it was essentially an early-release prologue for The Phantom Pain, which came out months later. It’s set in 1975, and you’re tasked with infiltrating an American black site in Cuba – a not-so-subtle commentary on Guantanamo Bay – and rescuing two of your allies imprisoned inside. Despite being a playable preview for the bigger game, Ground Zeroes more than proves its concept; you’re allowed to freely explore this massive map, discover its layout, and evade dozens of guards the entire time. The interactivity with objects and vehicles, the use of lighting and perspective, and the acoustics of the rain and voices are amazing.

What I enjoyed most, however, was the music. The series has always been known for its killer soundtracks, but only a handful of the games let you change the background music during gameplay. This time, you can listen to different cassette tapes – again, this is 1975 – thus giving your spy mission a little more flavor. One of the unlockable songs is this acoustic version of Paz’s character theme, “Love Deterrence.” She’s one of the prisoners you have to save, and the somber, romantic guitar melody sums up her relationship with Big Boss perfectly. Explaining the details would spoil the story of Peace Walker, but let’s just say there’s a good reason why a young woman like Paz would be locked up in a military prison…

If you want something a little more lighthearted, you can hear the original J-Pop version of “Love Deterrence” from Peace Walker here. If you want more Metal Gear Solid V, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike – Jazzy NYC ’99

Street Fighter III: 3rd Strike is a serious contender for my favorite game of all time. I could spend hours waxing poetic about its incredible design. How fun it was despite the relatively small roster. How unappreciated it was in its time, simply because of its ridiculously steep learning curve. How its intricate and technical combat mechanics set new standards for the fighting genre. How its complex parrying and combo systems unapologetically demanded memorization down to individual animation frames. How the graphics were some of the finest 2D sprites in the 90s. How high-level play is insanely difficult but extremely entertaining, even almost two decades later. How it’s one of the few games that I’m still willing to play anywhere, anytime.

Yeah, I love 3rd Strike.

What many folks remember it for most, however, is the soundtrack. The playlist borrowed from and blended several genres, most notably jazz, rap, techno, and instrumentals. It was a risky departure from the simpler, traditional game music themes (which Street Fighter II helped establish), but the decision paid off in spades. Jazzy NYC ’99 is arguably the most famous track, for obvious reasons. Its catchy beat goes perfectly with the bustling, gritty city subway in which its stage is located. Even after all these years, any old school fighting game fan will recognize it instantly. That’s a testament to this game’s quality.

If you want more 3rd Strike, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Kingdom Hearts – Simple And Clean

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned Kingdom Hearts before. It’s one of the most popular video game franchises of all time, and for good reason; it’s a huge, sprawling crossover that spans not only the Final Fantasy series, but also almost every major Disney movie. Yeah, it’s as epic as it sounds. The first game alone featured places from Alice In Wonderland, Hercules, Tarzan, Winnie the Pooh, Aladdin, The Little Mermaid, The Nightmare Before Christmas, Peter Pan, and references to many others.

Shown above is the HD version of the original game’s intro, complete with its catchy trance remix of Hikari (Simple and Clean) by Utada Hikaru. The slower instrumental version is also an excellent, chill tune. With Kingdom Hearts III currently in development, who knows what the next soundtrack will be like. I’m betting on awesome.

In the meantime, you can find the full OST for the first Kingdom Hearts here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: SMT: Digital Devil Saga 2 – Divine Entity

Despite its popular original Japanese release in 1987, the Megami Tensei series has only become mainstream in the West within the last decade. And man, were we missing out. The games are all about following your beliefs; do you prefer order, chaos, or something in between? The future of humanity itself hangs in the balance. Your ability to recruit, summon, and control demons and other mythological beings figure largely in your strategy…as well as whatever overarching cosmic plan the gods have in store. Most of the games are notorious for their difficulty in comparison to others in the same genre. The steep learning curve, unforgiving complexity, and sheer length aren’t for everyone. But if you enjoy well-written stories with ambiguous moralities, challenging gameplay, and tons of mythological references, be sure to give it a look. You might want to start where the majority of gamers did: Persona 3 and Persona 4. These spin-offs are not as brutal as the main series, but have wonderful writing, excellent characters, and are themed around Jungian and Nietzschean concepts. Or if you want to wait until later this year, Persona 5 will be coming stateside.

In the meantime, you can listen to more of the DDS2 soundtrack here.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Undertale – Megalovania

Undertale has recently taken the gaming world by storm. For good reason, too; while it pays homage to classic 2D RPGs, it delights in taking all of the genre’s common themes and cliches and turning them upside down in witty, hilarious, and sometimes terrifying ways. Maybe you don’t have to kill every monster you come across. Maybe they’re not as horrible and dangerous as they seem. They could be your friends, if you give them the chance. After all, what kind of hero goes on a quest just for the sake of slaying enemies? What do they get out of it? Money? Power from leveling up? Do they even care what they’re doing? What happens when there’s nothing left to kill?

Yeah, it’s interesting.

This theme, “Megalovania,” is actually a remix of an older song. Toby Fox, the creator of Undertale, previously featured it on his Halloween-themed Earthbound ROM hack, as well as Homestuck. It’s also a reference to “Megalomania,” the boss theme from Live-A-Live. As for this game, the song is reserved for the finale of the optional Genocide Route; going by that kind of name, you can imagine what that kind of playthrough requires. No spoilers for the final boss, but let’s just say you’re gonna have a bad time. If you like the song, check out the various versions, or the remixes like the Dual Mix, the Triple-Layered track or the Mega Man X cover.

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

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Metal Gear Solid V – Sins of the Father

I’m pretty sure I’ve mentioned the sheer awesomeness the Metal Gear Solid series before. It revolutionized gaming as a medium; it made storytelling an essential aspect of how people play, resulting in games that felt more like blockbuster movies. Thanks to the technological developments and a popular following, the series has escalated with each passing entry. It’s not just about the incredibly detailed graphics, but the memorable characters, setting, theming, voice acting, and (of course) music. Sung by Donna Burke, Sins of the Father is the main song of the recently-released Metal Gear Solid V. It’s a reflection of the game’s theming: loss and pain, and to what lengths someone will go for the sake of revenge. It’s not a happy song, but it’s appropriately epic for a story about the world’s greatest hero becoming its worst villain. For better or worse, a legend is about to ride again.

If you want more MGSV, the full soundtrack can be found here and here.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Professor Layton and the Last Specter Theme (Live)

I love the Professor Layton series. It’s the closest Nintendo – or any major video game company, for that matter – will get to making a Sherlock Holmes-style character. He’s highly intelligent, polite, and solves mysteries of ridiculous proportions. It would’ve worked well enough as a visual novel, but letting you solve hundreds of puzzles along the way makes it so much better. The series is also well known for its extensive continuity and well-written characters; The Last Specter is the fourth installment out of six (seven if you count the Phoenix Wright crossover), but it’s the first chronologically. It’s also famous for its various soundtracks, which are among the best you’ll ever hear on a Nintendo console. While the theme of the Diabolical Box will always be my favorite, this live version of the Last Specter is great for some easy listening.

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: The World Ends With You – Calling

In early 2008, I was fortunate to be one of the first Western game reviewers to get my hands on The World Ends With You. I was immediately hooked by the idea of a Square Enix RPG that wasn’t set in a medieval fantasy; TWEWY is set in modern Shibuya, a famous district in Japan. Urban fantasy – and the entire concept of magic realism – really appeals to me, so I immediately jumped at the chance to cover it. I wasn’t prepared for its clever writing, ridiculously complex battle system, and incredible artwork. Most people take touch screen interfaces for granted these days, but the game was far ahead of its time. Several areas of the game are visually identical to their real world counterparts; the buildings, businesses, and iconic crosswalks were faithfully recreated in 2D. The soundtrack is still one of the best ever seen on a Nintendo handheld; the rock, hip-hop, and electronica lend themselves well to Shibuya’s culture. Upon its release in the States, the game quickly became a modern classic. If you ever get a chance to play, I highly recommend it.

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

Good gaming, good music.

Soundtrack Saturdays: Street Fighter III: 2nd Impact – Nile (Gill’s Theme)

Much like its predecessors, Street Fighter III went through multiple iterations over the years. New characters were added and rebalanced, and gameplay mechanics were tweaked to be more complex and technically challenging. It’s understandable why it the game ended up with three versions; at the time, the folks at Capcom believed this was going to be the final Street Fighter game. If you’re going to send off one of the greatest and most influential gaming franchises in existence, you want to go out on a high note. They pulled it off, too; 15 years later, Third Strike is still regarded as arguably the best 2D fighting game ever crafted.

However, many gamers tend to forget the previous versions – New Generation and 2nd Impact – even existed. The latter not only introduced more strategic options to the series, but had an excellent jazz, techno, rap, and drum and base soundtrack. The “Nile” theme encompasses what makes the final showdown with Gill so awesome: a calculating, tense feeling hiding beneath a serene and beautiful surface.

If you want more 2nd Impact, you can find the full OST here.

Good gaming, good music.