Category Archives: Video Game Music

OC ReMix Strikes Again — Final Fantasy VI: Balance & Ruin Finally Released!

If you don’t know what OC ReMix is, get out from under that rock you’re rotting in. An organization set to celebrate videogame music, running strong for 13 years, have finally released their 40th album. Arguably their biggest work yet, what better than to tackle the best of the best? The original composer is Nobuo Uematsu. The game is Final Fantasy VI. Ask anyone and they’ll tell you it’s one of the best entries in the series, which conveniently contains some of the best music in the series, too. Each character in its large cast had a diverse theme, each track tried to go for a certain feel and genre. From Shadow’s country/western-like composition to Emperor Gestahl’s sweeping march symphony that always sends chills down my spine — From the infamous Maria & Draco opera to the quirky and appropriately-named Spinach Rag; Mr. Uematsu’s masterpiece constantly surprises you with versatility and memorable melodies. It’s fitting then that OC ReMix tributes this track in the only way they know how; make it more versatile and memorable. While a soundscape update to the original 16-bit tunes is always a treat, that’s not OCR’s primary goal. Just like Uematsu, they’re here to make videogame music sweep through a lot of genres and expand on the composition on the original melodies in unique ways. One could argue that this style of remixing may cause the original sound to get lost in the shuffle and become undetectable, but OCR’s remixers mostly manage to balance nostalgia and newness excellently. Their previous Final Fantasy album, VII’s Voices of a Lifestream, is one such album in my opinion. It contains some of the best material I’ve heard from OCR, and judging by the preview trailer of FFVI, they’re looking to topple whatever they’ve made in the past.

Epic trailer indeed. I like how they highlight the actual remixers of the album because they truly deserve it. I hear hints of Dancing Mad in there, going for a Middle Eastern fusion sort of thing. Jillian Goldin is featured with her beautiful female vocals. Electric guitars, orchestra, a violin version of Spinach rag, a rock version of Maria & Draco, and the list goes on and on. I have not listened to the full album yet at this time of writing, but I’m looking forward to the ride as soon as I click that publish button. As usual, it’s free to download…but for those who have contributed to the Kickstarter will get their physical edition (with a bonus DVD) soon enough. For now, let’s enjoy some free remixed videogame music. I’m sure a lot of old-school FFVI fans will pick their top 10 favorite remixes off this album, including yours truly. Keep it locked for album impressions!

The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses Review

Symphony of the Goddesses

Obviously this isn’t going to be your standard review as Symphony of the Goddesses is just that, a musical symphony. The symphony played last night here in Montreal, and it was actually the second time it played here. It was an outstanding evening dedicated to the phenomenal music of The Legend of Zelda series. The venue took place in Montreal’s major performing arts centre, Place des Arts. Typically Place des Arts is the home to ballets, operas and other classy venues like that. It was a little jarring to see over a thousand gamers screaming and cheering in such a place, but at the same time it made me think of just how far videogames have infused themselves in our culture. The evening was split into several sets, an intermission, and a few encores. There was a host who explained what each piece of music was about, and also talked a bit about the games that inspired the music. Before we jump into the selected works, you should be aware that prices for the event ranged from around $30 to $125. You can’t put a price on awesomeness, can you?

As the lights dimmed and the music began to play, the very first song was the main overture and theme to the Symphony of the Goddesses, which is essentially a compilation made of of many of the best Zelda themes out there. It was a brilliant way to get the show started. After that the host came out and introduced himself, and said that we would be looking at some of the very best games in the series, and also that this would be something like a second quest, being that this was the second time the show rolled into town.

The first movement was dedicated to the twentieth anniversary of Link’s Awakening. It was simply incredible. The crowd went crazy, girls were taking their tops off, it was all out madness. Ok, maybe that’s not what happened, but the music was utterly fantastic. I love how they played all the most popular themes from the Balled of the Wind Fish to The Storm. Never before have I heard these songs played by an actual orchestra before, and it gave me chills. This was to be the beginning of a magical evening.

The second movement was Spirit Tracks, and featured some of the most somber music of the evening. Not knowing much about the game, I just sat back and enjoyed the show. The big screen depicted all the best scenes from the game from the opening all the way through to the final boss encounter. All the movements were setup as such, and even though I’ve yet to put in any serious time with the game, the touching music has really inspired to remedy that.

The next movement was Ocarina of Time, and some of the best themes were included. We had Saria’s Song, Ocarina of Time, Lost Woods, and many more. What I really enjoyed was how the host introduced the set. He said “don’t worry we’re not going to cover the Water Temple, otherwise we’ll be here all night.” The evening was filled with little inside jokes like that, and it made it all the more special.

The next movement was a special one, because it highlighted an upcoming game in the series, The Wind Waker HD. The video shown was all based on the GameCube original, but man did the game age well. Not sure an HD remake is even necessary when you see how awesome the game original one still looks. Pieces included Outset Island, Tower of the Gods, and more. I found it a little odd Dragon Roost was omitted, but the rest of the songs were fantastic. Hearing an actual choir perform the Tower of the Gods was far more powerful than I could have ever imaged.

After seeing the final battle with Ganon surrounded by the waterfalls, it was time for the intermission. Normally I would have gotten up and walked around for a bit, but I was so impressed that I just sat there waiting for the next half to begin.

When the lights dimmed for the second time the first tune played was Gerudo Valley, and it was accompanied by thunderous applause. If you don’t know this track from Ocarina of Time you should be ashamed for yourself! It’s a breathtaking piece of music.

The host then returned and revealed the next set, which would include my favorite game of all time, but first up was Twilight Princess. Intro was played, as was Waking of Zelda, and Boss Ganondorf. There were other pieces mixed in for good measure too. I think the video was just as powerful as the music it accompanied. The video highlighted all the key scenes from the game, and I forgot how sad the end of that game was with Midna having to leave.

The next movement was A Link to the Past, and this was the highlight for me personally. Not only because of seeing a 16-bit game blown up on a ridiculously large screen, but also because some of the most memorable music from the series was played. Zelda’s Theme, Hyrule Castle, and Dark World to name a few. It was something else. Having never heard this game’s soundtrack quite like this before, I actually closed my eyes at one point and just took it all in. It was outstanding.

That was supposed to be the end, but as usual there was an encore. The encore was Dragon Roost, which made the crowd go a little crazy, and brought a smile to my face. I knew they omitted it from the previous selection for a reason. Boy it was special to hear and see that famous scene from The Wind Waker. Sarina accompanied me on this magical journey, and even though she’s not a fan of videogames in general, even she got chills from this piece. It was so well done.

The second encore was a movement on Majora’s Mask, and it got more applause than I thought it would. Theme of Giant was outstanding, as were some of the other selected works. It’s funny but this was the only N64 game shown, as OoT footage was from the 3DS remake. I’ve got to say that the game hasn’t aged too well, and really looked rough up on the big screen, especially the giants at the end. Either way, the music was spectacular.

The third and final encore was Hymn of the Goddess from Skyward Sword, and it was the perfect way to cap off the evening. The crowd gave a standing ovation, and honestly I think this was the rowdiest crowd to ever sit in the Place des Arts theater. Gamers know how to bring the house down that’s for sure.

Overall it was a brilliant evening, and I can’t recommend it enough to fans of the series. People from all walks of life joined together to celebrate the one thing they all had in common, their love for The Legend of Zelda. No matter what happens in the gaming industry, one thing’s for sure, these games have touched the lives of millions of people all around the world, and the music has touched our very soul. If you’re looking for an evening you’ll never forget, The Legend of Zelda: Symphony of the Goddesses is for you.

Final Score: 10/10

Heck yes! David Wise Returns to the Donkey Kong Country Series!

It’s a good day to be a fan of Donkey Kong Country, Rare, and video game music. Not only are Retro bringing the series to the next-generation, they’re taking a piece of Rare with them — in the form of David Wise. Infamous for his time at Rare, his current freelance status begged the possibilities of him returning to the series he made famous. Yes, he’s every bit of why the DKC series are excellent. Our dreams have come true; Wise is composing for Tropical Freeze on the Wii U.

Listen to this and I dare you to tell me you’re not getting chills. The soundscape, the samples, the composition — absolutely perfect song and it hasn’t aged a day. Let’s not forget this infamous tune as well, one of my favorites actually:

I can’t wait to hear what he’s cooking for the latest entry. Congrats to Wise for this gig. Go on, head over to his Twitter and send him your well wishes!

Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon Trailer Easter Egg — Mario Strikers Charged Reference

I immediately called this as we were live blogging the 3DS presentation yesterday. Go check the live blog out if you don’t believe me! Quite a few fans on YouTube caught this easter egg too, which proves how excellent Next Level Games’ music is. Anyway, notice the elevator music at 1:42 of the Luigi’s Mansion trailer…sounds very familiar, right? Yes, the elevator music is an arrangement of Mario Strikers Charged’s “Pause Menu Music”. Pretty logical as the developer of Luigi’s Mansion is also Next Level Games, but it looks like the same composers will be featured, too.

Anyway, go over on YouTube and catch up on the soundtrack of Mario Strikers Charged. It’s a brilliant rock-oriented soundtrack with plenty of experimentation with techno, country, jazz, and some funk thrown in for good measure. Here’s one of my favorites, The Classroom. If this played in my class, I would’ve never slept in.

Club Nintendo Japan Gets Kid Icarus: Uprising Soundtrack

Live in Japan? Then you’re about to be treated to an excellent new addition to the Club Nintendo prize roster. Kid Icarus: Uprising has risen to the cream of the crop in the 3DS software library, and not just for its fantastic gameplay. Let’s be honest, the game’s music put the soundtracks of a lot of other portable games to shame. Nintendo seems to agree, as they’ve released a 25-track CD of the game’s best tunes that Japanese Club Nintendo members can snag by redeeming just 400 points (or 250 for those who’ve purchased Uprising). Furthermore, the sound quality has been bumped up from that of the game. Another day, another stellar offering made available on the Club Nintendo Japan website.

 

 

PS: You can sample the soundtrack here!

Skyrim: The Epic Music Video

There is video game music, and then there are video game music videos. So, you haven’t got your fix of Skyrim remixes and medleys lately? Then you need to check out this full-blown music video production complete with spell casting and swordplay, sweeping camera work, and at the center of it all, a fabulous voice and violin duet. Vocalist Peter Hollens, violinist Lindsey Stirling, and cinematographer Devin Graham are here to bring you one of the finest video game tributes ever produced. Pause your copy of Skyrim and check it out!

According to the best Austin Video Production company, this is a high-quality, well-made video production with a lot of attention to detail.

 

 

Who wouldn’t love to see these two lend their talents to the next Elder Scrolls game? Or at the very least, give us another fabulous music video for Skyrim 2 or whatever it may be called.

 

Link’s Awakening: Threshold of a Dream is Now a Reality Thanks to OC ReMix!

It’s been a really active year for OverClocked ReMix thanks to increased awareness of the game music remix community. I skipped on their recent niche releases due to lack of interest, but their latest project sends them off 2010 with a high note: a reinterpretation of the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening music, appropriately titled “Threshold of a Dream”. It has just hit the internet as of this writing, so check out the torrent while it’s hot!

As the tracks download to my laptop and OCR splurges up its web-page to promote it, let’s reminisce about the first and arguably the best handheld installment of the franchise. Ironically, I don’t regard LA as a breathtaking spectacle, but to its credit it did define what epic handheld games are all about in the present. Additionally, the self-contained plot stands out nicely among the series and is still debated to this very day. I’m surprised by how people regard it so highly compared to the other installments to be frank. I think that the other handheld games far surpass it, yet other fans will fearlessly tell you that the modern ones don’t hold a candle to Link’s Awakening.

Its music, however, is still quite catchy. Koji Kondo stood as supervisor as a set of other composers took helm. Three in total for one mere Game Boy game? That’s pure dedication. Maybe that’s why its overall vibe sounds different compared to the Kondo-composed ones. Some tracks feel really fast-paced for a Zelda game while others feel like they’re taking on other genres all together. All in all, if you love chiptunes then you can’t go wrong with Link’s Awakening music.

This arrangement of the classic Zelda tune still remains as one of the catchiest ever. As soon as I hit those mountains back in the day, I felt like I was on top of the world trying to save the day. I’m curious to see how OCR handheld this arrangement in particular.

Ah, mysterious forest. This has to be my favorite track of the game. Has this eerie feeling even though it’s not slow-paced at all.

The boss music also stands out as sounding unique. The mini-boss theme is so short and simple but still manages to sound so cool…very rock-oriented stuff.

I’ll try to update with impressions as soon as I download and listen to OCR’s latest. I can’t wait. You should be on the edge of your seat, too. Support the movement and download this album! It is free after all.

YouTube Performer of the Day: Crescendo playing “To Zanarkand” on Handbells!

Well, well, well…these guys came out of nowhere. Crescendo is apparently an ongoing show featuring international music artists, as the intro so boldly states. I’m just glad that they recognize good video game music! “To Zanarkand”, Final Fantasy X’s main theme, is argubly one of Nobuo Uematsu’s most addicting tracks. We hear variations of it in classic leitmotif fashion throughout the game, but nothing beats the original version on piano. Surprisingly, the instrument of choice in this live rearrangement is not a piano, but handbells. The organ plays in the background, yet handbells make up the bulk of the main melody. A rather weird choice for soling because each time a handbell or a triangle is present, it’s usually part of a full orchestra…to my experience, at least. So I must say, playing the main melody, note-for-note, with handbells no less…is an amazing feat! It’s almost a perfect rendition, so props to the two handbell players–or are they called ringers?–which are in-sync with each other and the melody throughout the whole video. Imagine having to memorize the sound of each handbell, time your lifts perfectly, and work with each other to deliver note-for-note melodies and harmonies. One of the few moments in musical instruments that’s not easier said than done. It truly looks as hard as it sounds.

I really hope that these guys do more of these. There’s a whole selection of game music tracks I’d love to hear on handbells right now. I never appreciated the instrument until I’ve watched this video, and I’m sure that you’ll feel the same way as your jaw drops in awe.

Props to OC ReMix for the shoutout!

Want Final Fantasy V Remixed Music? OCR Has Us Covered! (+FFV Thoughts/Rant)

Leaked from their panel during PAX 2010, OverClocked ReMix revealed their next free-to-download tribute album: Final Fantasy V: The Fabled Warriors. Try saying that three times fast. Not exactly a surprise since their work on Final Fantasy IV awhile back was really solid. On the other hand, this album is atypical for two main reasons.

First off, who played Final Fantasy V? Seriously…aside from the millions of Japanese fans (and Jarrod Nichol)? This installment is perhaps the least known one of all (the ROM fan-translation doesn’t count). That record used to be held by Final Fantasy III, yet its remake on the Nintendo DS was successful worldwide. Final Fantasy V still has very little recognition outside of Japan: the original SNES version made it overseas for the first time under the PS1 compilation “Final Fantasy Anthology“, which included the superior Final Fantasy VI. Those 350000 copies were definitely not because of FFV, and even if you wanted to play it, horrendous load times, outdated visuals and iffy localization stood in the way of tolerating it. The Game Boy Advance re-release fared better critically (mostly due to the solid translation by Nintendo of America and modified graphics), yet its release was fairly limited compared to the enhanced GBA ports of FFIV and FFVI, both of which already had North American releases on the SNES. In short, me and millions of other die-hard fans aren’t exactly touched by the game’s nostalgic factor. Besides, from what I’ve read about it…it really sounds like a transitional leeway game to the awesomeness that is Final Fantasy VI. Not saying that it’s a bad game, but I have a feeling that it’s not as strong as the installments released before and after. Correct me if I’m wrong, fans. I’ve yet to see someone claim that he/she loves Final Fantasy V more than IV or VI.

I will say this though: Nobuo Uematsu may be one of the key people to FFV’s charm. Being the nerd that I am, I’m familiar with two music tracks of the game despite never playing it: “Lenna’s Theme” and “Clash on the Big Bridge”. As project director Shariq “DarkeSword” Ansari says, Lenna’s Theme (a.k.a. Raina’s Theme, a.a.k.a. Main Theme of FFV) is arguably one of the most beautiful pieces that Uematsu composed in his career.

The “Dear Friends” version is something I stumbled upon a decade ago during the productive boom of share-file programs. Still brings a tear to my eye.

As for Clash of the Big Bridge, it’s the very track that introduced me to cover band The Black Mages years ago, an official group by Square-Enix music composers lead by Uematsu himself. I couldn’t believe that such an idea existed back then, but when I stumbled upon their official page hidden in the depths of Square’s old site, I became a fan at that instant.

You can really tell that Uematsu was aiming for a progressive rock vibe upon listening to the original version. Looks like–I mean, sounds like he finally went for his true vision with The Black Mages rearrangement, right? That battle theme is so addicting. Makes you wanna bump into people and headbang!

Getting back to track here, another atypical factor of OCR’s latest creation is that for the first time they’ve divided the release into batches…this calls for a catchy slogan: “Five Characters. Five Legends. Five Albums. One Game!” Smart, eh? Thus in actuality, only the first batch has been released today, comprised of 9 tracks by OCR’s finest remixers such as the project director himself, zircon, and Sixto Sounds. On one hand, it’s sort of disappointing to get a mini-album in OCR standards when most people are used to more than 20 tracks per album. I do understand why Shariq has decided to do this though. One big problem with big OCR releases is that a lot of good tracks don’t get enough breathing room and decent ones may slip through the cracks. This is exactly what happened with the Final Fantasy IV and VII albums among a few others. Even though the overall reception is positive, the work isn’t truly appreciated. By going for small doses of mini-releases with extra development gaps between each part, listeners will get more than enough time to really appreciate each remix. I like this idea a lot and I sense that directors of upcoming OCR projects will take note.

Here’s Sixto Sounds’ version of FFV’s Main Theme. Very different to what I originally expected, but that’s OCR for you. Good stuff as usual. I LOVE this dude’s guitar playing! We get a face-melting solo towards the end. I really hope Sixto is working on the rearrangement of “Clash on the Big Bridge”, but knowing OCR we’re bound to see the old switcheroo and have an orchestral-based remix of a bad-ass battle theme. Actually, that’s not too bad of an idea. I’m curious to see someone pull off a believable calm version of “Clash”.

Once I get to my laptop, I’m downloading this torrent and putting the playlist on repeat. Don’t forget to do the same. Remember: it’s free!

By the way, welcome back to the world of directing, Shariq. Last album you had your hands on was also one of OCR’s first works: Kirby: Rise of the Star. Well, there’s that Metroid album which is an unofficial project…but hey, who am I to complain?

Final Fantasy V: The Fabled Warriors Official Site

Mega Man Universe Gameplay Trailer & Music Composer Unveiled!

Two surprises in one package, eh? Not too bad. As you can see, graphic style and gameplay look similar to Mega Man: Powered Up, only less Chibi. Two things are revealed at the end of the trailer: Ryu as a playable character and the people responsible for the rocking music remixes. Guess what? Capcom pulled another community rabbit from its hat: The Megas have been known throughout the internet for its awesome rock renditions of Mega Man music (complete with vocals)…and now they’re actually working on music for a Mega Man game! Must be a dream come true for them indeed. While it’s highly unlikely that you’ll hear their vocals in the game itself, their instrumentals still sound just as awesome. Check our their site for more of their music. They recently released an Acoustic version of their debut album which is based on Mega Man 2. Check out their version of Air Man and be prepared to be blown away.

Looking forward to more revelations. I’m pretty sure that there’s a level creator somewhere in there. As for playable characters, you can now safely take your pick from Capcom’s library of mascots.

Source: IGN

Public Service Announcement: Where to find Dwelling of Duels!

Update September 2nd 2010: an even newer link has been revealed today. While it’s still in beta phase, this new site will be your number one source for everything DoD.

I should’ve written this post ages ago.

I’ve been noticing a surge of DoD searches being directed to some of my old write-ups. You’ve probably noticed that most of the links I had are down. Sadly, that’s because DoD’s main site along with VGMix have been taken down as well. No word from the host, Jake “virt” Kaufman, on his future plans with both sites. Hope isn’t lost though as the competition has been keeping itself alive through a new site. This month’s duel is past vs. future and some of those entries sound great. As soon as the results are posted, I’ll try to get back to my write-ups. Haven’t done those in a long while. You can download and listen to the music right now if you wish. Post your thoughts here, too.

As for getting your hands on DoD’s library…that’s covered as well. Thankfully, the community has a mirror site which is relatively unknown…doesn’t pop up in the first pages of Google. Click here and download away.

Keep on rocking, Dwelling of Duels!

Prediction of the Day: David Wise Making Music for DKC Returns?

Ever since the announcement of the long-awaited revival of the Donkey Kong Country series, I’ve been curious about its composer. It’s not because my bias towards video game music. Fans of the series will immediately tell you how awesome the soundtracks are. From the catchy DKC self-proclaimed theme song (which is actually the first level of DKC1) to the smooth Aquatic Ambiance level, David Wise really went above and beyond with the composition and samples used for the music.

…which got me thinking: can’t Nintendo and Retro Studios bring him back to compose for the upcoming fourth installment?

As you may have noticed in Mr. Iwata’s interview, the team is actually very passionate about the emotions evoked by the series’ music. David Wise is the perfect man to recreate that atmosphere. After all, he has already resigned from Rare a year ago so he’s a free to do what he wants. I have a feeling that he’s already on board and this may be Retro’s best kept secret. I will really be disappointed if that’s not the case.

Listen to the evidence yourself. The first video is the original track…DKC2 credits theme. Still sounds great and catchy to this day, right? The one below is the remixed track by David Wise himself with the encouragement and backing of OC ReMix. He plays the sax live. Imagine that kind of production quality for DKC Returns’ soundtrack. The man still has the skills….you gotta give him props for that remix.

Anyway, sound off in the comments section below if you want Mr. Wise to make a return to the series which put him on the map of famous game composers. I wish we can find a way to encourage Retro Studios and Nintendo to do so if they’re stupid enough to not even think of recruiting him. There’s still about 4 months or so until the game’s release…plenty of time for Mr. Wise to work his magic.

OCR Has Some Serious Monkey Buisness to Do: DKC2 ReMix Album!

Ladies and gentlemen, I proudly present the latest album from OverClocked ReMix, Donkey Kong Country 2: Serious Monkey Buisness. The DKC series have been a source of great entertainment to fans around the world, its music notwithstanding. What makes this release special is the inclusion of its original composer, David Wise, and other special guest musicians from Rare; Robin Beanland an Grant Kirkhope on live trumpet and electric guitar respectively. That goes to show you how tightly-knit the videogame music community is. After all, David himself is a fan of OCR, complementing a ReMix of Aquatic Ambiance by Vigilante awhile back. All what project director Geoffery Taucer did was notify David of this fan-made gift via e-mail and ask if he could honor us with a remix track. The wheels immediately started turning.

Here’s David Wise’s remix of the credits theme featuring his Rare buddies on live instruments. Epic stuff, eh? This also happens to be OCR’s 2000’s track on the site. Coincidence? I think not!

What are you waiting for? Go download the torrent on the official site! You can also download individual tracks if you like. It’s all free!

Congrats once again to OCR for a successful release. Looking forward to more great work in the future! I may post some impressions as soon as I listen to these tracks.

YouTube Performer of the Day: SongeLeReveur

Welcome to our ongoing feature in which we highlight talented musicians who arrange/cover videogame music! That’s quite a mouthful, but isn’t much compared to the handle name of today’s artist: SongeLeReveur. I’m pretty sure it’s French for “I am awesome” since his YouTube profile says he’s from France and his performances are awesome! Let’s refer to him as “SLR” from here on because I’m too lazy to correct mistakes that I will eventually make since I know ZERO of the French language. And no, keep your thoughts away from Mercedes’ out-of-production SLR super car.

Anyway, SLR has two big hooks: he wears a cap that sometimes covers his eyes and he’s a one-man band. The former is pretty cool despite people making fun of it, while the latter basically means he plays multiple instruments, superimposing all his performances under one video. It’s catching on in YouTube, but this guy truly takes the cake for being consistent and seamless. His favorites are the acoustic/electric guitars, bass, and ocarina…although you will see some odd ones popping up from time to time.

You’ll notice multiple playlists on his page…obviously the ones which caught my eyes first are Final Fantasy, Zelda, and Sonic; three timeless games with timeless music. Turns out that the Final Fantasy one is a gold mine! Let’s take a look at our favorites, shall we?

This is the video that introduced me to the artist whilst casually browsing YouTube. It’s a funky arrangement to Final Fantasy VII’s “Oppressed People”, one of the game’s quirkiest tracks. Love the sound of the guitar…bass accompanies that quite well, too. Mid-track is where he starts getting comfortable with the source tune by giving us a cool solo. The instrument that keeps this tune true to the original is that cool Melodica (thanks Wikipedia!). Don’t see that being played often.

Ah, Sandy badlands…one of my favorites. It was really a cinematic track in FFVII that totally fit the area. SLR goes above and beyond to make his take unique yet stick true to the source. While his ocarina playing and bongo drums are spot-on to the source, I found the shaker to be an excellent addition to the vibe he’s setting. His electric guitar playing sticks to the melody as well, but he makes some sweet improvisations with the acoustic one. Picks up the tempo towards the end.

I just had to highlight this piece. SLR has a knack for covering FFVII’s quirky tracks. This one is the one played in Midgar’s sewers if you people recall. Pretty straightforward cover with the clarinet, bass and guitar…it’s that custom “brushes on a cardboard” that really had me awed. Just like the shaker from his Sandy Badlands arrangement, this guy manages to pull out the perfect instrument to keep the sound true to the original.

“Can you Hear the Cry of the Planet?” is one of my favorite FFVII tracks and one of Nobuo Uematsu’s most haunting and experimental works. It plays in the City of Ancients if you recall. The original had that electronic lead that gave me goosebumps, yet the background orchestral sounds really soothed the soul. SLR didn’t stay exactly true to the source with this one, replacing the electronic sounds and orchestral ambiance with his acoustic guitars and ocarina….but it doesn’t matter because it sounds just as haunting. Mid-track is where SLR quickens the tempo and takes liberties with the arrangement…his acoustic guitar and ocarina playing go on overdrive and really add the feeling of intensity not found in the original source. That’s just passion playing right there. Love it!

Here we go! Time for some heavy metal. This is a cover of one of Final Fantasy’s most unique tracks: Otherworld from Final Fantasy X. Not a lot of people love this one because it’s different…it’s possibly the heaviest track in the series with growling/spoken vocals and blaring electric guitars. I personally love it even though I’m not a heavy metal fan…the lyrics really suit the game and FMV well. SLR has a lot of guts taking on this one since it’s a vocal track, and he mostly passes with flying colors. While his growling isn’t as good as the original, he does a good job imitating it. The electric guitar playing is great stuff as usual.

This is SLR’s first full-blown arrangement…a medley of all the music found in FFVII’s Midgar slums. It has all his favorite instruments in high quality, yet adds some nice keyboards and Melodica to mix it up. He takes some nice liberties with solos here and there, yet the transitions between songs are abrupt. Nice work overall.

Let’s end off with one video that’s not Final Fantasy-related. This is yet another full-blown arrangement that involves Sonic 2’s infamous Chemical Plant Zone tune. I have to say; this is my favorite video so far! It takes a famous source and transforms into a very catchy blues song. Again, the guitar playing is top-notch stuff, especially with the increased tempo towards the end. The arrangement is the highlight of the track though. I encourage SLR to submit this to OC ReMix since this is exactly what the community loves to highlight.

I hope you enjoyed our latest highlight. Click here to subscribe to his videos and here for his blog. Sadly, he doesn’t provide MP3s of his tunes so you’ll have to rip ’em off YouTube the hard way.

Dwelling of Duels December 2009 Results: MAGfest Free Month!

It’s that time again. MAGfest Month! MAGfest stands for “Music and Gaming Festival” and it’s held every January. As I explained in last month’s write up, this month is typically filled with entries for the Dwelling of Duels competition. Veterans on hiatus wake up from hibernation just to make a song for MAGfest…of course, let’s not count out the rising stars and newbies who step up and bring their A-game to the compo. I guess the reason for the hype behind this month is because most of the video game remixing communities actually meet up at MAGfest, exchanging stories, attending shows of game music bands, jamming, and having an all-around good time. Additionally, the full results of this month are revealed live during MAGfest before going online…there’s even a live listening party for crying out loud!

Anyway, it can take me ages to praise each entry since the count is over 40…so I apologize in advance for missing out on good tracks. I’m highlighting my absolute favorites, but I urge everyone to download all these tracks including the alternates. Click here for the results and enjoy!

1st Place – Hope Fails, Level99, Moonlapse: Ecco: TTT – Waves of Stone

Congrats on first place to these people! While not my favorite track of the month, I can see why people voted for this one the most. Ecco the Dolphin music is somewhat popular among the game remixing community. Spencer Nilsen is responsible for the Sega CD version music of “The Tides of Time”, which this arrangement is based on I’m assuming. While I’m not familiar with the source material, I LOVE Spencer’s work with Sonic CD, which I still regard as the best Sonic music ever. Anyway, these three individuals are not exactly frequent DoDers. Perhaps Hope Fails (a.k.a. OA) started off his music on DoD but later “migrated” to be more active on OC ReMix, taking helm on the Final Fantasy IV project. Level 99 and Moonlapse worked on FFIV as well, so it’s no coincidence that these three are collaborating on this gem. Anyway, great work all around. Can’t fault the awesomeness of Hope Fails and Level 99’s guitar shredding, feeding off each other’s energy well. The biggest asset of this track are the amazing synths/keyboards in my opinion (handled by Moonlapse I’m assuming). Love the feel it gives to the music…goes really well with the guitars. There are some faint vocals there as well which become more prominent during the downtempo mid-track.  Great work, people. It’s nice to see Hope Fails in DoD again after so long…bringing in his associates along for the ride. I mentioned before that I’d love to see Level99 frequent DoD more after his collab with LuIzA, and here he is!

[4th Place] norg: The History of the World of Video Game Music

So this has to be a first for Dwelling of Duels. A video entry! Veteran entrant norg decided to surprise everyone with being different. While it’s all about the music, it’s great to see how in-sync the video and his medley are. You can’t really separate them from each other…the combination of simple game footage, hilarious text narratives, and stills turn this entry into a funny mockumentry. The intro attempts to create music for Pong…it’s the only section of the 10-minute track in which the music and footage drag on and get boring. It gets good after that though. Norg really knows how to shred…and create some catchy synths to go with that. I’m wondering how many classic game tracks can you recognize without the game footage? I’m not really familiar with the pre-Nintendo era, but some of the popular arcade music like Pac-Man and Dig-Dug are obvious to me. The Sega bit is surprisingly filled with games that aren’t Sonic besides one small reference to the end jingle. I awed as soon as we moved on to the SNES era…the best part of this track in my opinion. He flawlessly managed to combine Super Metroid (Lower Crater?) and A Link to the Past (Dark World) tracks…never knew that they can fit together so well. Towards the end norg goes all “time is running out” on us and plays even faster…trying to cover some of the music he “forgot” to highlight under 10 minutes. Hilarious.

6th Place – Zoola, Ergosonic: Kirby’s Adventure – Roy G. Biv

Man…Ergosonic is on fire! I’ve been a fan ever since his debut a couple of months back. Such great acoustic guitar playing and recording. He chose the right source to display his skills, too; Kirby Adventure’s “Rainbow Resort“. It’s a great tune. In fact, most of the music in the Kirby series is solid stuff. While they’re repeated often between sequels, you can’t help but hum these melodies as they stick in your head. Rainbow Resort is a mellow song, which is why Ergosonic’s acoustic guitar skills fit really well here. He’s not alone though. Looks like his buddy Zoola is on electric guitars, too. Great solos in the track’s intro. There’s a sweet downtempo mid-track that throws a bit of “Grape Garden” acoustics in the mix…followed by Zoola’s awesome guitars once more. The ending is long and pretty chill…almost sounds like a jam improvisation of the theme, but comes off really professional.

7th Place – TheoConfidor, Edwin Rhodes, Carl Stanley: Mega Man ZX Advent – This Volcano Is…

Wow…this is honestly my favorite track this month. This trio of entrants make this song sound so professional I honestly thought this was a live recording by a popular videogame band like The OneUps. Let me get one thing straight before I praise the heck out of this piece; the music of the Mega Man ZX series is so underrated! If you loved the music from the early Mega Man X series, you’ll most definitely like what you hear in these games. While I’m not familiar with ZX Advent’s material, I love the music of the prequel. The mixture of orchestral, techno and rock elements are perfect. Each theme perfectly suited the respective areas of the game. I fell in love with the professionally-produced official “ZX Tunes” album as well, featuring live instruments and vocals. The same can be said of the quality of this DoD track, which is a remix of the Undersea Volcano area. You can easily think that it’s a bonus track of the official “ZXA Tunes” album due to its high-quality production values. Very chill, jazzy vibe overall. Love the echoic piano intro. Nice live guitar playing. The orchestral synths complement the live instruments perfectly…really complements the original track well, too. Minute 2 grants you with a classic jazz solo show-off of guitar, piano, and trumpet playing. Great work, guys! Hope you try and submit this to OC ReMix…they’ll most definitely eat this one up.

Tenth Place – J2: Chrono Trigger – Drinking Eight Sodas Makes Me Sick

Gotta have some Chrono Trigger music in Free Months, eh? No matter how many covers and remixes this game gets, the community never grows bored of it. Goes to show you how good of a composer Yasunori Mitsuda is. Newcomer J2 covers the infamous Fair theme from the game, folk-style. While there aren’t a lot of deviations from the original source, you have to commend the excellent folk influences J2 brought to the table. Totally faithful to the original track…not to mention the good acoustic guitar, piano, and flute playing. I like.

Eleventh Place (tie) – Daniel Tidwell: Final Fantasy 7 – The Planet’s Dyin’

A Final Fantasy 7 Medley…interesting. Haven’t heard one of these in awhile. Daniel takes an atypical approach and starts off with the “Inn Jingle” and follows with a powerful metal cover of the iconic “Crystal Theme” present in most Final Fantasy installments. “Intro/Bombing Mission” follows soon after, then “Theme of Final Fantasy VII”. Finally, Daniel ends off with another common track in the series. Overall, the medley is pretty straight-forward, with most of the strength lying in the solid progression between individual songs.

Fifteenth Place (tie) – Vegeroth: Ken Griffey Jr. Major League Baseball (SNES) – I’m Hitting Balls

What’s with this weird source? Apparently, old baseball games have catchy music. Vegeroth is one of the compo veterans who we haven’t heard from in awhile. I’m glad he entered this month…because this tune is so damn catchy! Despite being only two minutes, I consider this to be Vegeroth’s best work yet. Great energy, great playing, and nice homages to baseball music with the keyboards. Definitely should’ve placed higher in my opinion.

Twenty-Third Place (tie) – Matt Thompson: Mega Man X – Flame Mammoth’s Stage

The title says it all. Flame Mammoth Metal. I enjoyed this despite being basic. Good playing, good recording, and some nice improvisation/solos toward the end.

Alternate – VikingGuitar: Mega Man 4 – Dust Man (You Ain’t Gettin’ No More)

One question comes to mind when listening to this Dust Man rock cover: WHY IS THIS AN ALTERNATE?! To be frank, this is one of my favorites this month. Great production values and excellent guitar playing. I so want more!

Alternate – MC Nachbar (virt): Guitar Hero: World Tour – Rock Band

Jake “virt” Kaufman’s alter-ego; an all-star rapper! It looks like a growing trend in The Shizz community; rockers turning into rappers. Danimal Cannon had the same transformation during “Password Month” with his humorous Mega Man 9 track, and now Jake’s doing the same thing. A bit of background: virt composed Contra 4 and worked on Red Faction: Guerrilla. Seriously. This alternate along with his samba-themed Mario Paint entry in 2nd place show how versatile he can be. While the latter isn’t my cup of tea, I found this entry to be quite hilarious and well-made. The beat is really catchy and the lyrics are so off-the-wall. Guitar Hero/Rock Band fans have been warned since this track makes fun of the series. Lots of foul language and suggestive themes, too. Listen at your own risk.

That’s all with my absolute favorites of the month, but I haven’t even covered half of the awesomeness! You’ll find a variety of genres and games represented in the full results. Piano solos of Twilight Princess and Chrono Cross? Check. An epic Lufia power-metal remix? Double check. A Kid Icarus/Metroid medley? It’s here. Final Fantasy Tactics Jazz & Female Vocals arrangement? Yup! Even rock remixes of niche games such as Marble Madness and Legend of Dragoon are in here! So what are you waiting for? Start downloading!

Next month is Joke Month. As the title implies, entries must be funny. This will be your best bet to sample the humor of The Shizz community in full force. Stay tuned for the madness.