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NeoGAF's Official Game Soundtracks of the Year 2012 (Voting Ended)

Datschge

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Sep 23, 2006
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So, Beyond The Labyrinth, as he said, was for the complainers.

Very nice write up about Beyond the Labyrinth, but I'd personally word that part a little differently: Beyond the Labyrinth was done while given the freedom to try to create something new. Now more than in the past especially in "AAA" console games there is increasing demand for a very specific kind of sound, and as such composers are essentially typecasted. As such the variety that composers are expected to turn in are a far cry from the nostalgic heydays when due to technological limitations anything melodic was welcomed.

Those who don't like Sakuraba's "usual" output should definitely give Beyond the Labyrinth a listen. Much of his stuff for more popular games gets flakes for being "same-y" in a way plenty people often show blanket dislike for whole genres for sounding too same-y (jazz, classic etc.), and in that way Beyond the Labyrinth is indeed a deviation.
 

Dark Schala

Eloquent Princess
Mar 2, 2010
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The Land of Bagged Milk
I’ll keep this rather brief since my SotY post + honourable mentions posts will be longer. I think I played more older games than newer games this year. As a result, I have lots of soundtracks that I wanted to talk to other people about but never really got a chance to do so. Much of the VGM threads on GAF don’t really facilitate that sort of talk either (since they’re generally list threads as opposed to threads that facilitate discussion), so I didn’t bother.

So, I just have two LTTP soundtracks to go over because I’m stepping out of my bounds with this post a little bit. One of which leads into my SotY vote post, and the other, well… I just really wanted to talk about it, as I think it’s one of the best soundtracks of the entire generation. I think I’ll start with that one.

Assassin’s Creed II Original Soundtrack

I played all three Ezio games this year and ended up loving two of them. Assassin’s Creed II, if it weren’t for another game I’d recently completed, was originally my Game of Another Year 2012 (and the same is true for my LTTP Soundtrack of the Year). What I loved the most about this game, though, was its presentation and linguistic qualities. I love the research that went into using proper dialects, fashion, general structural tendencies, and street life in the game.

Compared to the original Assassin’s Creed’s soundtrack, Jesper Kyd decides to use more string and choral work throughout the Assassin’s Creed II album. While it doesn’t completely and seamlessly work with the Renaissance era that the game works with (contrasting with the first album’s tendency to blend well with the Middle Eastern setting, though I think AC2’s attempt at representing the Renaissance feel is via the acoustic guitar; it certainly feels that way), and while it uses instruments like the electric guitar (and granted, I’m a little biased because that is my instrument of choice) and percussion that isn’t befitting of the era, I can award it kudos for compositional strength and the strength of how the BGMs are arranged. I feel like that dissonance is done to suit the blend of the modern and Renaissance eras that the game itself has, though. So I don’t necessarily view it as something I should be critical towards, but rather, I feel like it’s something like an experiment. It’s reflective of the single playable character you’re playing as: the modern man in Desmond following the Renaissance man Ezio around.

The first track on the soundtrack, Earth, demonstrates this rather well. It begins with choral work echoing the main motif of the game (Ezio’s general theme coming from Ezio’s Family), and an acoustic guitar strumming along. Then it kicks into gear with stronger percussion and electric guitar riffs (that, I suppose, is demonstrative of Desmond’s era). I personally think this is a rather nice blend of both types of sounds being driven together and synched together, being tied together with a violin. In fact, Earth’s quality of starting slowly and then driving along more frantically with a stronger pace is demonstrative of much of the BGMs on this album. I think some people don’t like this sort of thing, but I thought the idea behind this BGM of blending together the calmer, soothing side with the frantic modern side was incredibly smart. Venice Rooftops continues this trend as well.

I’ve said it before on GAF, but Ezio’s Family is one of my favourite BGMs of the entire generation. It’s an incredibly sweet theme that I wish were in every AC soundtrack for the sake of consistency. Sure, some people might say it’s overrated, but I adore it. I adore how it progresses much like the other two opening BGMs, yet it’s a contrastive, sombre take on the AC2 theme. Starting with the choral work blending well with the sombre acoustic guitar, it then drives to a climax where a violin joins in to play a sweet melody until diving into some electric riffs to close out. Even then, the modern take isn’t domineering because this piece is supposed to be more reflective.

Florence Tantarella is actually more baroque (and that era didn’t hit until the 1600s), though I suspect the intent behind it is precisely that despite being historically incorrect. You see, baroque music came out of Florence by way of the Florentine Camerata. Anyway, boring stuff aside, it’s got some Irish jig moments in here, and I like it (let’s bear in mind that I’m incredibly fond of the Genso Suikoden and the Suikoden Celtic albums).

Venice Escape is another BGM that I’ve talked about before: “I was very impressed with the Venice themes in AC2 in general. This one was rather remarkable, though, because it's kind of a folksy rock ballad with some Middle-Eastern influences with intermittent vocals. But this is more fast-paced and energetic, and it's very well-mixed. The intro is a great hook and serves as good backing later on, and it just bursts into a wonderful guitar escape tune with the vocals at the forefront. The short burst of strings in there is nice as well.”

Sanctuary is a sombre and pensive piano-based melody, cohesively fitting with short choral work, a violin melody, and harp work. Overall, the BGM lends itself to darker textures, and the darker framework of the second disc of the soundtrack.

Finally, Approaching the Target 3, despite not being loaded instrumentally, is another one of my favourite BGMs on the soundtrack. It begins with heavy percussion which propels the BGM forward, serving as both its percussion and bass, while choral work and violins play intermittently throughout. As expected, it’s a stealth BGM. Even without breaking out into a stronger melody with a faster tempo, it manages to keep the tension high with a large degree of success. It even manages to close out extremely well.

If I could, I’d spend all day deconstructing the soundtrack piece-by-piece, but I should restrain myself. Jesper Kyd composed an excellent score, worthy of being one of the best and most thought-out soundtracks of the entire generation. Assassin’s Creed II’s soundtrack encompasses the reason why I will never say western-composed music is boring, because this soundtrack is demonstrative time and time again that it is not.

I can’t, however, afford similar complements to the AC3 or AC3: Liberation soundtracks this year, though. I cut them from my short list last week due to a lack of cohesion. Heck, I’m sitting here right now, listening to the AC3 main theme in the background because I was playing the game a second ago. It’s a good soundtrack, but it’s not one that I would give soundtrack of the year to for various reasons.​


LTTP Soundtrack of the Year: Sora no Kiseki: the 3rd

What, predictable? Yeah, I guess it was predictable. And it squeezed in under the wire, too! It goes to show how impressed I was with the soundtrack, I suppose, while playing the game. This is truly my Game of Another Year 2012, and also my LTTP Soundtrack of the Year.

I believe that I have voiced my dissatisfaction with Falcom’s music in the mid-2000s for using samples and compositional patterns that I didn’t necessarily like. Sora no Kiseki FC’s soundtrack, for the most part, falls victim to this (it was originally released in 2004). In spite of that, Falcom’s sound team is one of those big musical powerhouses, capable of delivering the best of the best. They don’t get a lot of traction outside of the VGM scene or within Falcom’s fanbase because much of their albums or their games weren’t released internationally until now (their albums are now on iTunes so gogogo buybuybuy).

I’d recently finished Sora no Kiseki: The 3rd and loved it a lot. Part of the reason why was facilitated by the absolutely wonderful score with good sample utilization. Cry For Me, Cry For You is the opening song for the game, and while it’s alright, I think the OP songs for the other games were better (this game more than makes up for it in its beautiful ED BGM, Looking at the Sky, so don’t worry). The chief problem is that the mixing and instrumentation makes it sound a little by-the-numbers, and the vocalist doesn’t really sell the song because the diction isn’t always there. It’s unfortunate, and diction and proper flow is something I treasure a lot in terms of singing (but this is because the majority of my vocal training lay in musical theatre and mezzo-soprano stuff). Though, I suppose one would think that the weirdest thing is that the same vocalist did the OP and ED songs, but it isn’t really the case given that vocalists can sound different or in/out their element depending on tempo and genre.

The Passenger Airship Lusitania is a lovely majestic waltz BGM demonstrative of pomp and circumstance. Strong Attack actually continues in this vein a little considering its instrumentation with synth brass, heavy militaristic percussion, and synth strings with a quicker tempo. I love how this track is composed, especially as it gets more melodic before its loop.

The first thing you’ll probably notice with this soundtrack is that it’s more minimalistic and ambient than the other soundtracks in the series, and there’s a really good reason for that. Does that make the soundtrack overall bad? Absolutely not. In fact, I think it’s good that a series goes for genre diversity in terms of its scores. The synth in BGMs like Hermit’s Garden and Maze of Light and Shadow blend very well and still manage to pull off a slight synchronization with the narrative’s mood at the time you hear them. In fact, I think along with of Castle of Illusions (Phantasmagoria) (which is more along the lines of an event battle theme because it plays even in-battle; even with those Falcom choral samples they’ve been using for a while, the sweeps and the synths make the BGM), Maze of Light and Shadow is among my favourite dungeon BGMs in the game. Jade Corridor is astoundingly good with its blend of synth choral work and sitar.

Determination of Fight is my favourite regular battle theme in all of the Sora games. Much like the other battle BGMs in the series (FC in particular) it tries to find a way to blend jazz with battle. Battle themes are hard because you need to find a way to synch how fast battles are going (or whether or not battles have quick and fluid animations and that plays a role in your battle cinematography—yes, this is actually important in game design) with the tempo of your BGM. It’s a rather jazzy piano-driven tune with the percussion samples holding it up, with a delightful synth flute interlude. I love how the BGM is composed, too, because it several different portions to it, rather than just being 1-2 portions and then looping. This BGM actually takes the time to build and even though battles should never ever last long in a video game, I love that the composers actually took their time with this one because it genuinely shows.

Cry for your Eternity is an event theme, but it’s also used for nightmare difficulty in the arena. Isn’t it awesome? It’s a quickly paced BGM led by piano and synth strings with heavy percussion mixing (which, unlike some other BGMs that I criticize for doing this sort of thing, doesn’t seem overbearing—instead it’s very cohesive). Masquerade of Lies could be mistaken to be something taken straight out of Castlevania because it has similar awesome driving electric guitar chords, a synth intro befitting of a CV theme and that same desire to drive to a climax again and again.

Banquet of Frenzy has a ton of synth snare percussion work, synth chorals, a wonderful portion with a xylophone, organ and a build towards looping. And Dreamy and Boisterous Holy Land plays during the final portion of the final battle with tons of awesome synth and driving riffs that make me want to tab it all out. The percussion is hard-hitting in the way that I love, and I think this is the BGM where I finally realized they used good samples on the soundtrack as a whole. I genuinely adore the synth throughout this theme.

But the crowning BGM of awesome isn’t the final battle theme or the theme before the final battle theme, no… It’s Overdosing Heavenly Bliss. It’s hands-down the best BGM on the soundtrack, in or out of context. The bass in this is amazing, even though it gets drowned out by some of the other instrumentation in it. The synth choral it opens with driving along with the synth strings and then joining in with piano and percussion leads into this string-driven body supplemented with some nice bass creates this wonderful lead into a synth-driven post-body melody with all of the instruments cohesively taking part. It’s almost no wonder why Falcom seems to love remixing this BGM time and time again on various albums. And it deserves every single one of them.

I have to admit that I never really cared for the battle BGMs in the Trails games outside of maybe The Merciless Saviour so if I’m saying a lot about the battle BGMs in this game, they’ve improved. A lot.

Looking at the Sky, the ED song is a wonderful way to close out the soundtrack, delivering a touching rendition suitable to closing the Sora no Kiseki branding of games. The vocalist's diction is much better here, and the instrumentation (the acoustic guitar and bass, especially) is far better than the one in the OP theme.

The sound team decided to take the Kiseki games into another direction with The 3rd in terms of game design, character revelations, and the music. The amount of effort Sonoda, Unisuga, and Takeshita put into making the game’s atmosphere shine through the music showed throughout the soundtrack. The soundtrack is littered with ambience, gothic, rock, vocals, and jazz, and it’s mixed in such a cohesive manner that I have a lot of love for this soundtrack.

I suppose this is where Falcom started getting out of its rut, as I was surprised when I listened to Nayuta no Kiseki’s soundtrack this year in-game. But that’s for another post. *wink*​
 

Yuterald

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Jan 12, 2011
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1. Crimson Shroud:

Sakimoto & that Basiscape crew. Doesn't get much better than this. The entire soundtrack is pretty damn good, but there are a few standout pieces. Her Reputation Precedes Her is my favorite track in the game. I could listen to this for hours on repeat. A World Where Magic Never was is another one of my favorites. This piece, however, feels like something out of Valkyria Chronicles (not that there's anything wrong with that!). Finally, you can't go wrong with the credits track that wraps up the entire theme of the game! Upon much reflection, this has to be my favorite battle track in the game too. They Don't Look That Tough is like pure adrenaline. Shivers down the spine every time I hear, especially when it hits the 1:35 mark. Perfection.


2. Gravity Rush:

Kohei Tanaka. One of my other favorite composers of all time. I especially like this composer's Alundra contributions, but Resonance of Fate's town/scene/environment tracks are pretty god-like too. Old Town sums up my feelings towards the game. It's the most perfect town track. For me, his contribution/style for this game felt more in line with Resonance of Fate. Almost like lost tracks. Ruined Paths sounds like it's from some late 90's Japanese mascot platformer. Like a piece from a Klonoa game or maybe a 3D Bomberman game from the N64. Something like that, lol! I love it. Sorrow, Now THIS is a piece that sounds like it's straight out of Alundra. I love depressing and sad music. I'm the kind of guy that likes to reflect on shit, constantly, so music like this can put me in a daze for hours. Perfect light rain hitting windows kind-of-music.

...and I don't know what to make my 3rd game, lol! I barely played any new games this year with exceptional soundtracks. I kind of want to make it Yakuza: Dead Souls for this Star OF THE END: 83 KeyREmix. I wasn't too hot on a lot of the battle/exploration tracks in Dead Souls though so it's tough for me to give it a spot on the top 3. Although, the final battle tracks and some boss themes were really good in Dead Souls, as always. But then there's Binary Domain...hmm...so, now that I think about it, it's a toss up between these two games. I think I'm going to have to go with...

3. Binary Domain

Now that I'm listening to some of the pieces on their own, this game had a fucking awesome OST (sorry Dead Souls)! Shinobe is practically a boss theme from Yakuza. Plays at the most perfect spot too. So good. City Combat is cyber hot. Sounds like a track from the original Deus Ex, at times. Fucking incredible. Halls of Amada is another amazing piece. So much build up, so much hype. It's like the kind of music that would play in a Yakuza game when Kazuma has to invade some heavily armed building, like the Millennium Towers, for one final mission. It's so fucking end game too, like shit's about to go down, hardcore. So my favorite fucking shit ever!

Honorable Mentions:

Yakuza: Dead Souls
Paper Mario: Sticker Star
Kid Icarus: Uprising

Like I said, I didn't play too many new games this year. I mainly stayed somewhat retro.
 

SpikedGunner

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Dec 18, 2011
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My top 3:

1) Max Anarchy/Anarchy Reigns...if it counts, if not, then just give it Journey.
2) Rhythm Thief & The Emperor’s Treasure
3) Binary Domain

Honorable Mentions: Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, The Walking Dead, Yakuza Dead Souls
 
Dec 1, 2004
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I updated my post with tuuuuuuuuuuuuuuunes.

But the crowning BGM of awesome isn’t the final battle theme or the theme before the final battle theme, no… It’s Overdosing Heavenly Bliss. It’s hands-down the best BGM on the soundtrack, in or out of context. The bass in this is amazing, even though it gets drowned out by some of the other instrumentation in it. The synth choral it opens with driving along with the synth strings and then joining in with piano and percussion leads into this string-driven body supplemented with some nice bass creates this wonderful lead into a synth-driven post-body melody with all of the instruments cohesively taking part. It’s almost no wonder why Falcom seems to love remixing this BGM time and time again on various albums. And it deserves every single one of them.

That track is relentlessly beyond epic.
 

Octorockin'

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Jan 24, 2010
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1. Kid Icarus: Uprising - This soundtrack does a great job at telling a story, playing something fitting and memorable for each and every moment. The music is bold, dramatic, and incredibly fun.
Chapter 3: That Burning Town
Chapter 6: Dark Pit
Chapter 15: Aurum Island

2. Virtue's Last Reward - So many songs in this game sound like a culmination of various emotions, wildly, yet cohesively meshed together. I think it's an impressive feat for a song to make me feel encouraged, intimidated, and unnerved all at the same time. Just like the game's story, this soundtrack is one surprise after another.
Recreation
Biology
Biotope

3. Spelunky - This game is packed with so many likable tunes. Spelunky's soundtrack inspires feelings of isolation and wonder while playing up the goofy and mischievous side of the game.
Yeti
Deathmatch
Shop Radio B


Runner-Up:

Gravity Rush - I have not finished this game, but my early impression of the soundtrack is incredibly positive.
Gravity Crow
Resistance and Extermination
Old Town
 

Nert

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Aug 1, 2009
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Today is the last day for voting (and vote edits); GhaleonQ and I will share more details about the upcoming results thread when the time comes.

LTTP Post

I enjoyed your write-ups for those two soundtracks and I definitely agree with your assessment of Ezio's Family being a highlight of the entire generation; it's iconic in the same way that Gusty Garden Galaxy and Uncharted Worlds are, where you can listen to just a snippet of it and feel like you've been transported right back into the game. Clicking on Overdosing Heavenly Bliss pushed me to listen to a bunch of remixes for it again, too. What an amazing song.

I'm looking forward to your vote!
 
Sep 15, 2010
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This year was pretty easy when it comes to picking OSTs of the year. There were lots of quality releases but only few of them are outstanding.

1. Hotline Miami - my personal soundtrack of the whole Decade/ Generation
2. Journey - shit luck on releasing in the same year as Hotline Miami
3. Fez
 

XDDX

Member
Jan 3, 2011
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1. Pokemon Black/White 2 - I love the music in this game. Probably the best OST in a Pokemon game. Champion theme is amazing.

2. The Last Story - Great music by Uematsu. The music really helps create the atmosphere in the game. Main theme is great, and the final boss theme is epic.

3. Resident Evil Revelations - It feels like there isn't much music in the game, but when there is, it's really great. Helps build the tension, and there are some great boss themes.

Honorable mentions:

Didn't get to play these games, but they all have amazing music.

Kid Icarus Uprising
Resident Evil 6
EX Troopers
Bravely Default
Nintendo Land
 

toastyToast

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Dec 18, 2008
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1.Tekken Tag Tournament 2 - The pinnacle of fighting game music. The OST for 6 was kind of bland but the crew came back full force on this one. This isn't even just my favourite game album, it's probably my album of the year too
2. Hotline Miami - I'm sure enough people have waxed poetical about this soundtrack. More than anything, it's completely unlike what you would hear in other games. There's no chiptune, no chanting, no sweeping orchestra. Synths baby

I've got a headache and can barely recall anything else for the moment.

3. Spec Ops - The Line - For a game I went into thinking would have nothing to offer other than an interesting plot I really impressed by the eclectically appropriate choice of music. Probably the best use of licensed music I've seen in a game of its ilk
 

GhaleonQ

Member
Aug 24, 2006
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Today, I'm voting for Game Of The Year, so I have a little time to actually respond to other people's posts like a good GAFfer. I've only read them.

...Dark Pit is going to be canonized pretty soon in the next Smash Brothers, isn't it?

What happened to Gravity Rush/Daze of the Thousand Gravities though???

I DON'T NEED YOUR JOKEZ. *laughs*

Alright Ghaleon you got me to reconsider Sakuraba. I'll continue to despise Tales soundtracks with every fiber of my being but I guess I can't write the man off entirely anymore.

*sigh* I don't know. I LIKE it. It makes the game much better. I didn't love Gravity listening to it separately, and I listened through twice. The same happened with Gungnir. Usually, Sting has quite a few throwaway tracks, while this was easily their most consistent. It just didn't capture me as much as others.

Ghaleon--what a fantastic post. I'm a little surprised the Wangan Midnight OST isn't a little higher, but I guess I have to go listen to Dokuro's soundtrack, huh? I think the Beyond the Labyrinth mention is a little surprising. My boyfriend, who's completely mad for Sakuraba music, didn't seem to have a huge attachment to it.

Thanks! Definitely play the game. I generally think that music should exist on its own, but I'm not sure its quality will hit you if you don't understand how it's used. ...Oh, and it's a really good game. I'd argue that it's an amazing game.

If it was top 5 tracks versus top 5 tracks, I think Midnight might even be my number 2 (Danganronpa is just very consistent, for instance), but not every song blitzes the listener. And if I could make the comparison: every other Sakuraba soundtrack: Shadow Of The Colossus. This one: Ico, but without the You Were There moment. I think it's easy to overlook; I had to ask Nert to upload tracks at the last minute because I didn't think it would rank that high until the very end.

Very nice write up about Beyond the Labyrinth, but I'd personally word that part a little differently: Beyond the Labyrinth was done while given the freedom to try to create something new. Now more than in the past especially in "AAA" console games there is increasing demand for a very specific kind of sound, and as such composers are essentially typecasted. As such the variety that composers are expected to turn in are a far cry from the nostalgic heydays when due to technological limitations anything melodic was welcomed.

Those who don't like Sakuraba's "usual" output should definitely give Beyond the Labyrinth a listen. Much of his stuff for more popular games gets flakes for being "same-y" in a way plenty people often show blanket dislike for whole genres for sounding too same-y (jazz, classic etc.), and in that way Beyond the Labyrinth is indeed a deviation.

True, but I think some people (Koshiro and Kaufman, this year) take proper advantage of freedom to flesh out a style, while some just treat it as a "side project." This felt like Shimomura doing Parasite Eve 1, not just Sakuraba playing with different instrumentation and a lighter workload. It felt, especially in context of the interview, like he was trying to say, "See?"

But, yep, that freedom was a big part of it, too. Tri-Ace and Resonance Of Fate/End Of Eternity was a lot like that, too, but now I see that it was just a stepping stone. That's 1 of the reasons why I continue to defend Tri-Ace these days.
 

Despera

Banned
May 22, 2010
11,601
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895
*snip*

*snip*
Nice post.

What a mesmerizing combination of quality and variety. Another Timeline is just so good.

Too bad the game, based on a considerable amount of impressions, doesn't seem like a worthwhile experience.
 

Thoraxes

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Jan 12, 2009
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But, yep, that freedom was a big part of it, too. Tri-Ace and Resonance Of Fate/End Of Eternity was a lot like that, too, but now I see that it was just a stepping stone. That's 1 of the reasons why I continue to defend Tri-Ace these days.

Man, this reminded me that MSF came out and how freaking awesome the OST was. It was technically 2011, but man was it good.
 

GhaleonQ

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Aug 24, 2006
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Man, this reminded me that MSF came out and how freaking awesome the OST was. It was technically 2011, but man was it good.

Oh, you don't need to tell me. I always thought the company was overrated because it was westerners doing 2-d genres Japan had been known for (even through Contra 4 and Shantae), but then the Mighty series showed up and converted me. His soundtracks definitely contributed to that.

Now, it's like we can expect 2 or 3 really tight, pleasurable soundtracks a year from that man.
 

Temujin

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Jun 7, 2004
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Really a great year for soundtracks IMO.

1. Hotline Miami
2. Journey
3. Dust: An Elysian Tale (Abadis Forest is one of my favourite tracks)

Honorable mentions:
The Last Story
FTL: Faster Than Light (awesome title screen song)
Mass Effect 3
Dishonored
Sleeping Dogs
The Unfinished Swan
 

Stripper13

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Aug 20, 2008
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1. Asura's Wrath

Outstanding soundtrack for an outstanding "game". Not particularly fun to play in the traditional sense - but it's like experiencing DBZ for the first time all over again, but much prettier, much better, and the best soundtrack of the year behind it.

2. Dust: An Elysian Tail

Surprise of the year for me. Heard about it a day or two before release, bought it straight after playing the demo. Loved every moment of it. Soundtrack is just straight up video game bliss. Reminds me of my first experiences/memories of the Mario/Zelda titles. Music good enough that I can easily sit and listen to it without the game and smile.

3. Halo 4

Not the best Halo soundtrack by any measure - but it's impressive nonetheless. It's a shame that it rarely shines during the campaign, because as a standalone soundtrack it is outstanding. The times it does perk up during the campaign/SPOPS is always fantastic though.

Honourable Mentions:

XCOM. The soundtrack is so subtle yet purposeful. I feel like a straight badass commander when the music is all military, and on edge, when the music is eerie. Definitely a soundtrack that stood out for me this year.

Borderlands 2. Game just nailed it when it came to pumping up the tone of the music - particularly when going into a difficult/new area. Just well done all round.

Hotline Miami. I haven't had the chance to play through this game yet. However I've been fortunate enough to bump into the soundtrack several times... and it's fantastic. An amazing blend of old-school videogame music and pumping, original electronic music. Looks like it suits the game perfectly.
 

Kokonoe

Banned
Dec 2, 2011
14,574
88
655
1. Tekken Tag Tournament 2

got em, wubwubwub. knock em dead, knock em dead.

2. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

Richard Jacques did great with this OST, I especially like his remix of Panzer Dragoon and Metal Sonic's All-Star.

Panzer Dragoon
 
Dec 1, 2004
26,791
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*sigh* I don't know. I LIKE it. It makes the game much better. I didn't love Gravity listening to it separately, and I listened through twice. The same happened with Gungnir. Usually, Sting has quite a few throwaway tracks, while this was easily their most consistent. It just didn't capture me as much as others.


True, but I think some people (Koshiro and Kaufman, this year) take proper advantage of freedom to flesh out a style, while some just treat it as a "side project." This felt like Shimomura doing Parasite Eve 1, not just Sakuraba playing with different instrumentation and a lighter workload. It felt, especially in context of the interview, like he was trying to say, "See?"

But, yep, that freedom was a big part of it, too. Tri-Ace and Resonance Of Fate/End Of Eternity was a lot like that, too, but now I see that it was just a stepping stone. That's 1 of the reasons why I continue to defend Tri-Ace these days.

Gungnir I remember nearly nothing about. After hearing the magnificence of CS's OST, I'd call it a poor man's Sakimoto/Iwata.

Sakuraba's one of those composers that should never be vetted. He has too much talent, has done such wonders with light base goals, and there's too many B/C-tier composers that can do what shackled Sakuraba does, probably for less money.
 

Datschge

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Sep 23, 2006
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1,150
True, but I think some people (Koshiro and Kaufman, this year) take proper advantage of freedom to flesh out a style, while some just treat it as a "side project." This felt like Shimomura doing Parasite Eve 1, not just Sakuraba playing with different instrumentation and a lighter workload. It felt, especially in context of the interview, like he was trying to say, "See?"

But, yep, that freedom was a big part of it, too. Tri-Ace and Resonance Of Fate/End Of Eternity was a lot like that, too, but now I see that it was just a stepping stone. That's 1 of the reasons why I continue to defend Tri-Ace these days.

Erm. Music isn't created in isolation, nothing is ever really created new, and there are the composer type that readily picks up musical inspirations from outside as well as the musician type that progressively builds on his abilities. Kaufman is an excellent, nearly idealized (like one would imagine a traditional game music composer), example of the former type (a more negative example would be Yoko Kanno, taking inspirations a little to verbatim at times), while Sakuraba always has been one of the latter type, improvising upon his own frameworks and abilities. Sakuraba traditionally got the most freedom in the "side works" that's constantly being ignored by most people (as most never got soundtrack releases), the old Wolfteam and earlier Camelot works under Uno as well as the ones through Team Entertainment regularly resulted in new style attempts. Hatsushiba with tri-Ace/tri-Crescendo added a lot of polish, focus and cohesion, but I personally never agreed that that was ever Sakuraba at his best as it essentially killed his playfulness (VP1 being the one exception to the rule where he was just told to do "cool music"). Variety under tri-Ace's current sound director Michihiko Shichi improved but still was largely self-referential with focus on popular styles, Beyond the Labyrinth is the first tri-Ace game since VP1 where Sakuraba could do just what he wants. I also don't think he was trying to tell others about BtL's greatness or some such, he's far too reclusive to care about such (that interview was the first non-PR general interview in 8 years and the first Western general interview ever, and beyond always stressing the importance of making deadlines he makes usually rather boring frank answers), he imo just genuinely expressed that that's the way he'd ideally like to work all the time (and I think he should as well).
 

Nert

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I just remembered that Kale in Dinoland came out this year. I'm not going to do a full write-up for it, but it certainly makes for an interesting listen. Mansion, in particular, is one of the most ambitious songs that I've heard all year. They really commit to this being a "real" GameBoy game, too; the concept even carries over to the soundtrack cover art:

 

Chunky

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Oct 9, 2011
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Oh crap, totally forget about this! I'll have to elaborate when I'm not desperately finishing college work.

1. Kid Icarus: Uprising
2. Fez
3. Katawa Shoujo
 

Jucksalbe

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Oct 31, 2007
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Ah...almost forgot about this again. No time to make a detailed post anymore so I just go with:

1. Final Fantasy XIII-2
2. Atelier Meruru
3. Gravity Rush
 

Drencrom

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Aug 17, 2011
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1. Hotline Miami
2. Journey
3. Gravity Rush

Honorable mentions:
-Frog Fractions
-Sound shapes
-FTL
 

BruiserBear

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Oct 19, 2010
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I know it's not related, but is there no Neogaf game or the year voting thread? I can't seem to find it anywhere.
 

Nocturnowl

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I know it's not related, but is there no Neogaf game or the year voting thread? I can't seem to find it anywhere.

we've got one, it's still running and started up a few weeks back here.

Meanwhile by the sounds of things i'm going to have to put aside some reading time in the near future for Schala's Tomes™, possibly 3 posts?! I am not prepared!
 

Dark Schala

Eloquent Princess
Mar 2, 2010
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The Land of Bagged Milk
we've got one, it's still running and started up a few weeks back here.

Meanwhile by the sounds of things i'm going to have to put aside some reading time in the near future for Schala's Tomes™, possibly 3 posts?! I am not prepared!
you're lucky I completely cut the writeups I did for my honourable mentions and decided to do writeups for my awards instead. I might get 2 posts only if GAF allows me to do so.

Ah... the ole' post limit. Constructing the archive is a never ending struggle to squeeze everything in while leaving room for quotes in the results thread.

Deadline is approaching, people!
character limits make me cry.
 

Nocturnowl

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But now i'll know that it's an incomplete version, will wait for "Post of the Year edition" with HM content.

But I jest, I look forward to it.
 

wingz

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Sep 16, 2011
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1. Mass Effect 3
2. Tekken Tag Tournament 2
3. Dust: An Elysian Tail

Honorable Mentions
x. Darksiders II
x. Halo 4
x. Assassin's Creed III
x. Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed

SOTY of a past released game I played this year - NIER!

Games I didn't play this year (from what I heard, these two soundtracks would have been high on my list):
Journey
Unfinished Swan
 

BruiserBear

Banned
Oct 19, 2010
15,960
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we've got one, it's still running and started up a few weeks back here.

Meanwhile by the sounds of things i'm going to have to put aside some reading time in the near future for Schala's Tomes™, possibly 3 posts?! I am not prepared!

Thanks!

Strange that I couldn't find it through search.
 

Dark Schala

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Mar 2, 2010
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The Land of Bagged Milk
#1: Nayuta no Kiseki Original Soundtrack (Hayato Sonoda, Takahiro Unisuga, Saki Momiyama)



In my LTTP post, I’d alluded that I’d become dissatisfied with Falcom’s output in the mid-2000s because I didn’t like their general music direction, nor did I like their samples. While I’d listened to Zero no Kiseki’s soundtrack and enjoyed it a lot, I couldn’t help but to feel like maybe that was a fluke. Having listened to 3rd’s soundtrack, and Nayuta no Kiseki’s soundtrack, I can assure you that this is no fluke. They’re back and boy, are they consistent.

The Kiseki games have this tendency to have extremely lovely title themes, and Nayuta no Kiseki is no stranger to this. Beyond the Eternal Time has a very tender piano melody, supplemented with short melodic synth, a flute and a xylophone throughout before looping once again. It’s one of those BGMs you just want to spend your time waiting at the title screen to listen to.

Because Nayuta starts out on an island, you’re generally going to hear allusions to that. For example Lost Island takes us to the most obvious place in terms of composition. We have catchy bass and percussion/backing created to emulate traditional island sounds (I’d almost ask for a steel drum in there, but then that would just dominate everything)… which then continues into a melody that simulates peaceful town life as opposed to staying on the island-like course.

The Ruin Tower BGM gives us what we know and love from Falcom. Bass backing synth, synth choral work, and a build towards a delicate piano melody supplemented by a harmony. It’s not intrusive, and yet it works extremely well with what we know that Falcom’s Sound Team can accomplish, creating a heartfelt melody within synth.

One Day In Summer is a synth string piece with single plucking harmonies, and then extending into something more with synth woodwind. Similarly, Creha is a beautiful, heartfelt piano piece forming a serendipitous harmony with other instruments with several movements including a synth-backed portion, and at this point, I’d like to say how much I like the samples chosen for this soundtrack (especially those strings). It almost becomes a sombre-sounding lullaby… and the later track Creha ~ Kind Lullaby ends up making this reality.

Lost Heaven starts off with a rather repetitive synth melody supplemented with a guitar pluck, and then flows into a tender piano movement later backed by woodwind instruments, creating a harmonious and peaceful background BGM. Similarly, Lexendria creates an ethereal atmosphere, much like Lost Heaven does, with minimal instrumentation, and relies a lot on percussion to do so. Well Depths has awesome bass backing a piano layer, and then it transforms into a string and synth movement. It seems rather simple, and it works. Golden World Terra continues the trend of stunning beauty with synth flute and a beautiful piano layer. It’s almost refreshing considering much of the soundtrack is composed of a lot of synth, because simplicity can speak volumes in terms of beauty.

Illusions on the Ice Field sounds like the most Sonic-esque theme on this soundtrack. I don’t mind the lead synth here, though I think the backing synth is much better. The percussive bass synth is really fun to listen to, and then the entire piece key changes, becomes subdued and loops. It’s a nice way to keep the piece going throughout the player’s sojourn. Silver White Forest also attempts to create this atmosphere, and I can’t help but to be reminded of Arc the Lad’s music when I listen to this; almost like a blend of Arc and Falcom because you can clearly hear the Falcom in the strings and synth, but everything else like the bass and the percussion sounds Arc-like, and it sounds incredibly soothing and nostalgic.

By contrast Mountain Covered by Snows is piano and synth driven. Nayuta’s supposed to be more lighthearted, you see, so we get a lot of synth and electronic sounds as a result. Though, obviously, that doesn’t stop the soundtrack itself from being elegant because it leads into a string harmony section supplemented by synth and piano, and then a third section with a lead synth. There’s a lovely synchronization of synth string and regular ol’ bass and percussion & lead synth in Ravine of Crops as well, making the entire piece very fun to listen to. Ryuga’s Dusk nicely blends a wonderful synth backing and a lovely string melody, with a second movement evocative of 1990s-esque dance music.

Bring Back the Magic Arts!! starts off with a bang, joined in by synth strings. The mixing in this is superb, but if you know me and you know what I’m usually into, you know exactly what I’m paying attention to, right? Not the synth. Not the main electric. That’s right. That bass. Did you hear the bass? The tone colour of the bass is so soothing and it creates just the right harmony with the heavier percussion. I don’t think the loop lasts long enough, and that’s incredibly unfortunate because they could have done so much with the mixing and abrupt stops throughout the piece. Stage Clear also has some stylish-as-heck bass playing, and I feel it’s more like the main highlight as opposed to the synth and piano’s main melody (though those are really nicely composed too).

Nayuta’s Sword goes for the more orchestral feel with synth brass and militaristic percussion supplemented by synth strings and synth choral work (the one Falcom seems to like to use a lot). It ends up feeling triumphant and strategic. Continental Shrine also ends up trying to go for this feel, only with more evident synth. Star’s Place is also similar to this but introduces synth organs and synth choral work. The synth orchestration in Oneself’s Struggle is carried by piano backing, flute flourishes, snare percussion, and brass.

The guitar layer in Nayuta, Don’t Give Up is very pretty, and the string and bass backing assist in creating such a tender atmosphere, reminiscent of something from Suikoden (5, specifically). Even the addition of a synth flute doesn’t sound intrusive. Similarly, the acoustic presence in Feelings That We’ll Never Get Rid Of combined with the flute and strings lifted on a bassline are entirely welcome and absolutely beautiful. Reality of the Sky is incredibly minimalistic and gorgeous with a nice bass backing addition.

Nayuta brings us the gothic and guitar riffs in Burning Fault, reminiscent of a fusion between Ys themes and some Kiseki themes. Obviously, I’m listening for the backing bass, but the synth and lead guitars (and the backing guitars) carry this one into a movement with more strings. Foothill Thunder Strike attempts something similar, which, I feel, is pulled off at a greater degree of success. Beautiful Reef has a lot driving acoustic presence with a lovely bass backing (seriously, it’s really good because the hammers are nice), and the synth woodwind ends up carrying the melody in perfect synchronization with the other instruments, ending with an acoustic interlude to the loop.

One of my favourite tracks is Impatient Emotions. The distortion at the beginning remains in the entire track, supplemented by lead synths, blended with some good riffs, and then cooling off with some piano. Forgotten City comes blazing in with electric guitars and then cools off to the sound of pianos, percussion, and funky bass… and then comes back in another section being the driving force layered on top of the instruments that seemed to be a calming force in the piece.

What I love about this soundtrack is that you can easily tell which ones are the nods to the rest of the Kiseki games and when they’re trying to blend the Kiseki and Nayuta sounds together. Win Back Your Heart which combines synth, heavy percussion, and that gothic feel and ends up creating something that’s a blend of Nayuta and the rest of the Kiseki games. Void Statue sounds a lot more like a Kiseki theme than a Nayuta theme at first and then you hear the heavy synth and the fraction of the electric guitars and heavy bass used to supplement Nayuta’s music. Both themes are incredibly beautiful, especially as they move into their third section prior to looping. Void Statue, especially, which seeks to climb new heights and achieve more climaxes as the piece progresses.

The hardest-hitting BGM is Desolated Lands. Listen to this shit. Harder riffs, harder percussion, and hammering on the bass trying to blend with a string synth harmony. Oh, I didn’t say I loved the bass in this, because that’s genuinely my favourite part of it, over the synth violin work. I love how it builds to some sort of chorus, and repeats it as if all of the instruments are singing in synch with each other before looping again.

For the Beloved Friends is a wonderful cap. It’s not guitar-driven, but it’s pretty much got everything. A piano portion acting as harmony for synth strings and bass. Percussion comes in again and again, adding gravity to the piece, while the synth choral work act as harmonies and a solitary electric guitar intermittently adds its two cents to the conversation. This is perhaps the most cohesive piece on the entire soundtrack, and rightfully so. It’s not chaotic. It’s majestic and beautiful.

Nayuta’s Feeling fits as an ending, soothing the player has he or she has finished his or her journey with Nayuta and Noi. As with the Sora games, in my experience, the ED themes are better than the OP themes in general due to their slower pace and the fact that the singer’s taking her time.

I feel like Nayuta's one of the best soundtracks in the series even if it's not canonically-related. A lot of the town themes and stuff are reminiscent of the other Kiseki games, and then you have some pretty awesome stage themes that sound like they could fit into Kiseki games (and Ys games), but others sound like they have a unique element that's for Nayuta alone. And I like that. I've often felt that as of late, Falcom's being doing some odd stuff here and there with some of the music they've been composing (usually limited to stuff like the early Kiseki games and stuff like Gurumin or Zwei), but I feel like they're just getting back into their element. 3rd proved that to me, and Nayuta has cemented that. I think Falcom’s Sound Team did an excellent job with balancing the whimsical qualities of Nayuta and the hard-hitting battle themes that’s we’re used to knowing and loving from Falcom.​

#2: Final Fantasy XIII-2 (Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto Suzuki):



I had to think long and hard about this one, actually. It’s not that I didn’t want to give any points to this soundtrack (because, you know, people think I’m too critical of FF or something), it’s just that I wonder if I felt it was consistent. But I thought back to how many arguments I had about it, how many times I’ve come to defend it and discuss how much I liked them going into new territory, and back to how many times I came back to it while studying.

Hamauzu only composed a fraction of the themes on this soundtrack. The majority of the BGMs were composed by Mizuta and Suzuki, both excellent composers in their own right. The soundtrack consists of a variety of genres from jazz to vocals to hip-hop to nu-metal to prog rock to… well, pretty much anything is up for grabs.

I have to admit that I don’t care for either Beautiful Heroes or Final Fantasy XIII-2 ~Overture~. Frankly, I find them a little boring or lacking? That’s okay because we have another Hamauzu track: Final Fantasy XIII-2 ~Wish~. In the last game, The Promise took this spot, and it also served as a starting point for Serah’s Theme. Both games used Serah’s motif as a starter point, hoping to draw the player in a little more. Strings and brass accompany the piano creating harmony and beauty. The motif will show up again in ~Future~, and finally in Serah’s Theme ~Memory~ featuring Frances Maya on vocals. I personally think Maya has a rather lovely voice and her phrasing is really nice.

I think Knight of the Goddess might be Hamauzu’s best track on this. It shares a lot of similarity with regards to how it progress with the previous game’s lead track Blinded by Light. You know, you have the intro, the buildup, and then the violin flourish and some awesome bass incorporation (this is a nice addition and I’ll take whatever bass I can get). God of War incorporations portions of this theme and adds militaristic flair to it.

A Broken Wonder is another one of my favourite pieces on the album for the sake of returning us to Hamauzu’s beautiful piano compositions. This is a nice return to that FF10 piano collection feel (and it reminds me a lot of the piano version of Sulyya Springs on the FF13 piano collection album). Adding strings and flutes accentuates the sadder mood of the theme.

With regards to the Lightning themes, Hamauzu uses motifs of her theme in Tears of the Goddess (which beautifully climaxes with it), The Gates of Etro (which sounds incredibly melancholy because of the soft piano and soft flute influence), and Lightning’s Theme ~Unguarded Future~ (being a simple piano melody fused with light electronic sounds). I think while they’re perhaps the most beautiful and most melancholy themes on the soundtrack, they’re not my favourites of his on this soundtrack either. That generally comes down to preference, though.

Finally, Hope’s Theme ~Confessions~ is a nice arrangement of the original acoustic theme in the previous game. It’s kind of jazzy and more tribal, but still slightly sticks the original acoustic piece using similar instrumentation. I’m not sure which version I like more, but I’ve found myself coming back to this one more often.

Moving on to Suzuki’s stuff, which generally focus on abstraction. Suzuki’s generally responsible for most of the map themes and their aggressive mixes, which seamlessly blend into each other perfectly. I think my favourites out of these are Parallel World (Aggressive Mix) and Eclipse (Aggressive Mix). Parallel World focuses on light electronica and light singing on Origa’s behalf. The aggressive mix of it is much better, bursting with more energy with its heavier electronic influences meshing well with its light piano. Eclipse feels like it was an answer to the criticisms that there were no traditional FF themes on the previous soundtrack—with its intro sounding slightly familiar and slightly not. The piano and violin create a threatening atmosphere, gracefully interlacing itself with the darker atmosphere that the in-game location presents. The best part of it is the violin’s tender playing. And then the aggressive mix takes all the elegance and throws it out the window for a more electronic take to make the area more threatening.

I think my favourite BGM of his is Empty Solitude. It’s not just used as a Game Over BGM, but also as an event theme much like the last game’s was used for. It’s heavily electronically influenced, and exists more for ambience as opposed to signaling to the player that he or she has been horribly defeated in battle.

As for Mizuta (pretty much the guy who composed most of the tracks), Paradox and Stigmata of an Oath are rather impressive and two of my favourite tracks on the soundtrack. They’re rather melodic and moody. The latter adds brass and slows down the tempo to make the piece dourer. Also, Xanadu, Palace of Pleasure sounds like it could fit into an MJ album or an older Sonic soundtrack due to its jazzy nature and funky saxophone.

He also composed Ruined Hometown (aggressive mix). I think Ruined Hometown is one of the better vocal themes on the soundtrack, heavily featuring Joelle’s wonderful voice and wonderful diction. Her voice fits so well with the rest of the music that it feels extremely seamless (I don’t know if that’s the mixing or what, but it fits in so well with the bass and piano that it’s hard to separate it on its own layer without feeling like you’re removing an essential component).

Mizuta also did a ton of battle themes on this soundtrack. He sought prog rock and jazz influences to mix with his strings for Run, electronic beats mixing with synth and strings for Paradigm Shift, and rock for the best battle theme on the album, Last Hunter. Also, Worlds Collide sounds a lot like it fits into Sonic 2006 because it reminds me a lot of the boss theme from that game and that just brings back unpleasant memories. I kinda like it.

I love Noel’s Theme ~The Last Journey~. It’s evocative of Noel’s presence and characterization in the game and completely fits him as a person. I thought it was an interesting idea to bring on a female singer as opposed to a male singer for this, though. But I guess they went for cohesion as opposed to fit. Its motif is primarily featured in Noel’s Theme and Recollection from the Future. And he decided to nicely mirror how Noel’s Theme and The Last Journey are written with Yeul’s Theme, Eyes of Etro, and A Song Written in Time. Those two ended up being tied together not just narratively, but also in terms of composition. I love seeing that sort of thought and procedure on a soundtrack and game design. It’s lovely.

The Caius Themes are some of the best villain themes to come out of Final Fantasy since maybe FF8 or 9. Caius’s Theme brings sinister strings, brass and male choral work to fuse nicely with the more romantic woodwind and female choral work. It also has a few movements that grow to a brass climax before going into a choral-focused movement. Followers of Chaos ends up being an event battle theme that extends from Caius’s Theme and becomes its own thing, and I think it’s one of the best orchestrated themes on the album. The brass, the percussion, and the vocal work blend together seamlessly to create new heights again and again, and then we get this wonderful romantic interlude, which lends itself to carrying the theme to a loop. Heart of Chaos is probably my favourite Caius-esque battle themes for the sake of mixing electronic influences, striking brass, and strings and then erupting into a percussion-focused rendition of Caius’s Theme complete with making a more desperate atmosphere.

Finally, Invisible Depths, while I kind of wish it were more like Shadow Hearts Covenant’s “The 3 Karma” where all of the composers took part in it, had Suzuki and Mizuta working together to craft a wonderful and intense final battle theme. Rather taking Hamauzu’s classical approach to final battles like he did in the previous albums, we hear more electronic components and distorted instrumentation fused with orchestration and choir work incorporating Caius’s Theme.

And you know what? I think Limit Break and Crazy Chocobo are actually good, and aren’t the disasters that people like making them out to be. Perish the thought, eh? Limit Break, composed by Suzuki, features vocals by Devil May Cry/Hostile Groove vocalist Shootie HG. The rock and electronic fusion sounds like something out of Vanquish, but the softer portions of the electronic instrumental are the best parts of the BGM. There’s a part of the BGM that features some awesome chord shifting and hammering-on/pulling-off that people tend to ignore. Also, um, I kind of respect people who switch between singing and shouting because I certainly can’t do it myself. I don’t really it’s that bad.

As for Crazy Chocobo, I think it’s hilarious! The chocobo themes always experiment with different genres throughout the series. It’s about time that heavy metal met up with it (and Uematsu, given his love for hard rock and metal lately would have probably done it sooner or later). I think the bass and percussion are fantastic, and the bass really mixes well with Shootie HG’s vocals, especially in his lower range. *shrug* I think it’s nicely composed. I’ve heard harder than this.

So. Final Fantasy XIII-2’s soundtrack is a mishmash of a bunch of things yet it ends up being kind of cohesive in the long run. There’s pop, rock, hard rock, rap, hip-hop… you name it, this soundtrack probably has it. And I think it helps that there are three talented composers working on this soundtrack in the forms of Hamauzu, Suzuki, and Mizuta, with all three getting their time to finally shine and show their stuff. All of them get to experiment with different genres to varying results, and in the end, I love that they took the time to do so. The album thus ends up giving the Final Fantasy series a shot in the arm of variance and genre diversity that the series desperately needed.​
 

Dark Schala

Eloquent Princess
Mar 2, 2010
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The Land of Bagged Milk
#3: Dustforce: Fastfall (Terence Lee/Lifeformed)



Dustforce’s soundtrack is incredibly charming and very solid. Actually, the naming convention of the album, and the naming convention for the tracks are kind of cute (50 FPS Forest, Sepia Tone Laboratory) because they refer to a lot of things that game enthusiasts would think about when playing a game, new or old (well, I brought up the sepia one because I called Tales of Xillia “Tales of Sepia” when I first started it).

Dustforce is a platformer where you jump around, slide around, and slash at things. It’s something that you’d probably like to speedrun to get good times. So essentially, it’s kind of like playing Rayman’s time trials because if you screw up, you want to start over. Meaning? You’re going to hear the music often. So… in terms of soundtrack construction and flow, you’ll probably want to compose something mellower and more relaxing. Also, in terms of composition, given that the game has a lot of pastel colours and low-key backgrounds, the music has to mesh and interweave with that quality. While the game emphasizes speed and proper platforming, the presentation of the game contradicts that, and that fosters a rather healthy harmony. The music is probably the most obvious part of that dissonance.

The first thing you’ll probably notice about the soundtrack is that it features a lot of reverb and stringwork. Some might find this repetitive, but I find it rather refreshing. Fifty FPS Forest demonstrates this quality very well, with a lot of reverb, harmonies, and intermittent string plucks along the way. Upside-Down Stalagmite features a lot of reverb as well, with really nice backing percussion. Baryogenesis is another track featuring excellent percussion. Admittedly, I’m not very good at describing electronic music, but the for the sake of attempting to do so, I have to highlight Baryogenesis being held up not by its main melody or the synth harmonies, but by its percussion channel.

A lot of people bring up Swimming While it Rains for different reasons, but I like the bass channel used here. The harmony layer, I feel, has a lot more thought than the melody, but that’s mostly for the sake of the instrumentation. Electric Relic feels a lot like the previous track, but I like the more subdued synth used for the melody and harmony here, even if it’s more one-note than the previous track (though the harmony makes up for it as opposed to the main melody).

A Safe Place to Sleep features a simple subdued melody with some intermittent strings and backing that seems to lull the player into relaxation or comfort. By contrast, Light Pollution is an upbeat track, led by a piano and backed by strings and awesome bass here. The strings in this are absolutely beautiful, and sometimes the piano takes the reins and turns it into even more of a delight than it originally was.

The final track, Dream Salvage is a solo piano piece, and is a simple, yet elegant way of closing the soundtrack.

I have to admit that I genuinely forgot this soundtrack came out this year. Nert kept bringing it up in another thread and every time he did, I had to keep saying that, “Oh yeah! That game came out this year, didn’t it?” It’s because it was released very early on in 2012. Going back and listening to it for SotY is a pleasure, though. Dustforce’s soundtrack is a nice blend of electronic music and relaxation. It creates a lovely contrast between the frantic quick pace of the gameplay and the mellow, smooth sounds and sights of the game. If making the player attempt to feel more relaxed while trying to create synergy with the peaceful backgrounds, then I think Lee was successful in creating that sort of atmosphere with Fastfall. Excellent composition and sample usage all around.​


Honourable Mentions




(I need to cut write-ups for these completely because I can’t fit anything in here anymore—but if you want a write up for anything, gimme a shout and I’ll finish doing the write-ups for them because I really want to!):

Beyond the Labyrinth Original Soundtrack (Motoi Sakuraba): Lilac Mist, Illegal Hole, Soul to Wander About
Darksiders II Original Soundtrack (Jesper Kyd): (please refer to this writeup)
Globulous Original Soundtrack (zircon, Jeff Ball): (please refer to this writeup)
Gravity Rush Original Soundtrack (Kohei Tanaka): Pleasure Quarter, Bloody Claws, Omen
Tales of Xillia 2 (Original Soundtrack) (Motoi Sakuraba): (please refer to this writeup)
Time Travelers Original Soundtrack (Hideki Sakamoto): (Please refer to this writeup)
Wangan Midnight Maximum Tune 4 Original Soundtrack (Yuzo Koshiro): Control Your Music, Never Throw Away, Glory Days, Feel a Thrill --> btw, did you know I worship the very ground this man walks on? I love Yuzo Koshiro's work so damn much.
Zero Escape: Virtue’s Last Reward Original Soundtrack (Shinji Hosoe): Consternation, Sinisterness, Treatment, Pantry


Other Awards:

Soundtrack I wish I could have voted for: DJMAX Technika Tune
Runner-Up: Lumines Electronic Symphony, Hotline Miami



So, I couldn’t exactly rationalize myself putting any of these soundtracks on the list proper because they’re partially licensed. They’re still down here, though, because I enjoy them a lot. They play heavy roles in the games in which they were used in. But I mostly wanted to talk about DJMAX Technika Tune. No, not just the Kara tracks, but yeah, the Kara selection is reeeeeaaally good. They have Lupin, Mister, and Jumping. I wish Wanna were on here, but what could I do, right?

The other tracks like Access (trance), Black Swan (obviously not composed for this—Electronic Waltz), Shoreline (house), and Emblem (dance) make the album sing and be a pleasure to interact with on the scale that DJMAX Technika lets you. The licensed stuff like Fate (fusion hip hop), First Kiss (Dance Pop), My Heart, My Soul (R&B), and The Max (acid dance) create such a wonderful mix to make your fingers literally dance to. I effing love this album, and if I could, I certainly throw a vote to it. But I can’t.​


Where Is Your Album Release?! Award: Phantasy Star Online 2 (Sega Sound Team)
Runner-Up: Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed (Richard Jacques)



Seeeeeriously, Sega. And here I was, ready to give an SotY spot to the Sega Sound Team—the one I had to take away last year due to Sonic Generations mainly consisting of arrangements. I found PSO2 BGMs while looking for music to supplement my Final Fantasy IV playthrough in the FF25th anniversary thread. A couple highlights: Dark Falz, Phase 1, Dark Ragne (All Forms) and Big Varder. All good boss themes, interlaced with what Sega’s Sound Team knows best. I just wish these were properly orchestrated with live instruments, because that’s when SST shows their stuff. Don’t leave that sort of thing just for Sonic.​


This Should Be in a Game Award: Identity Sequence (zircon)



Identity Sequence is not from any game. It is an original soundtrack from zircon, which he’d started a Kickstarter for. When Nert posted his Globulous writeup, I recognized zircon’s name and did a little digging. I found Identity Sequence.

The album opens up with Genesis, bringing its trend of ambient synth and mounting percussion; then it transitions into Arms Open Wide which features Jillian Aversa’s vocals. The album’s title track, Identity Sequence, is supposed to focus on zircon’s idea for organic electronic music, featuring Jillian Aversa’s vocals and electronica. Unity features lovely violin work on behalf of Jeff Ball. As much as I’d love to do a proper writeup for this album (because I really want to talk more about the acoustic and electric guitar songs on the soundtrack), I can’t. But I can’t let this album fade into the unknown either. I’m very impressed with what I heard, and I’d love to hear more stuff from zircon and his crew like this.​


“We Made a Fangame!” Award: Sonic Before the Sequel 2012 Original Soundtrack (Falk, Lake, Andy Tunstall, Funk Fiction, KgZ)
Runner-Up: Sonic Generations: Unleashed Project White Space BGMs (Falk)



If you’re saying, “Schala, fangames, really?” then first of all, get the heck out of here with that garbage and don’t ever put down fan works that you haven’t even heard or played yet. Second, you’d be surprised with how nicely some of these can be composed, and the fact that some of the samples (or live instruments) these composers use are better than some of the samples that well-known composers use. In fact watch this video where Falk talks about interactive music. So fan composers, when you get the best of the best, truly know what they’re doing.

Sonic Before the Sequel was featured at other SAGE (Sonic Amateur Games Expo) events beforehand, but the 2012 build of the game comes with better graphics, some gameplay/physics improvements, and new music!! Falk decided to take on the music and recruited some other people to lend diversity to the SBtS soundtrack.

Downpour – for Hilltop Heights Act 2 sounds like it could fit right into Sonic CD. Love the dance backing, and the vocal samples. That’s the sort of thing older Sonic soundtracks exhibited and something I’d love to see again. Adding bell samples is a really nice touch. It’s nice to see it grow from Rivulets – For Hilltop Heights Act 1, and then elegantly flows into the piano-driven Prismatic – For Hilltop Heights Act 3.

I’ve said in other threads that I absolutely adore Invisible Realm – For Lost Levels Act 1 because it’s terribly reminiscent of Suikoden for me. And then we get the chiptune-inspired Wood Zone – For Lost Levels Act 2 out of it, and the bass and synth-inspired Fire and Ice – For Lost Levels Act 3 (sounds like something out of the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, actually).

Evening Dreamscape pt1 – For Sunset Star Act 1 has lovely bass, percussion and piano work with some synth strings. It’s adorable, and it creates something incredibly soothing and jazzy, worthy of the lounge. Interlude – For Sunset Star Act 2 continues the jazzy trend with a piano and a lead sax. Plunk this right into Sonic Unleashed and you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference that it was something original. Finally, synth and synth leads are added Evening Dreamscape pt2 – For Sunset Star Act 2 keeping the soothing atmosphere.

Like, there are other tracks that are so reminiscent of the feel of older Sonic games, especially in terms of sampling like the older games used to do, that I can’t help but to feel nostalgic while listening to it. For example, Metro Madness Act 1, Blue to Darkness – For Fortress Flow Act 3, Chiptunes and Salsa – For Perilous Paradise Act 3, and Titanic Tower Act 1. It’s such a good album and I think people should give it a listen.​


Crazy Bus Award of Being Garbage: New Bah Bah Bros 2
Runner-Up: Dying Ducks 4: Episode II

 

Nert

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I laughed more than I should have at this YouTube comment for the Crazy Bus "song" that you linked:

this new skrillex song sounds cool

I've only begun to scratch the surface of your vote and I'm looking forward to going over it in more detail. In the meantime, I would like to say that I'd be happy to hear your thoughts on Globulous and Darksiders II. Several people have voted for (or at least mentioned) Darksiders II, but I don't recall anyone discussing it at length, so it'd be fun to see someone make a case for it. And Globulous, well, I'm biased there.
 

GhaleonQ

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Erm. Music isn't created in isolation, nothing is ever really created new, and there are the composer type that readily picks up musical inspirations from outside as well as the musician type that progressively builds on his abilities. Kaufman is an excellent, nearly idealized (like one would imagine a traditional game music composer), example of the former type (a more negative example would be Yoko Kanno, taking inspirations a little to verbatim at times), while Sakuraba always has been one of the latter type, improvising upon his own frameworks and abilities. Sakuraba traditionally got the most freedom in the "side works" that's constantly being ignored by most people (as most never got soundtrack releases), the old Wolfteam and earlier Camelot works under Uno as well as the ones through Team Entertainment regularly resulted in new style attempts. Hatsushiba with tri-Ace/tri-Crescendo added a lot of polish, focus and cohesion, but I personally never agreed that that was ever Sakuraba at his best as it essentially killed his playfulness (VP1 being the one exception to the rule where he was just told to do "cool music"). Variety under tri-Ace's current sound director Michihiko Shichi improved but still was largely self-referential with focus on popular styles, Beyond the Labyrinth is the first tri-Ace game since VP1 where Sakuraba could do just what he wants. I also don't think he was trying to tell others about BtL's greatness or some such, he's far too reclusive to care about such (that interview was the first non-PR general interview in 8 years and the first Western general interview ever, and beyond always stressing the importance of making deadlines he makes usually rather boring frank answers), he imo just genuinely expressed that that's the way he'd ideally like to work all the time (and I think he should as well).

That's a coherent reading, I think, but what I meant actually matched what you argued at the beginning. This seemed like it had, in some sense, gestated before the project began. He had a sound, and this was the opportunity to play with it. I guess I lost the thread of your argument that he's building his palette. So, you see his earliest stuff and Valkyrie Profile as 1 "color," his Tales Of as another, his Tri- as another, and this as a 4th? From which experience did this build?

1 pushback: are the various Tales Of soundtrack re-packagings and rearrangements all Namco-Bandai just looking for easy money? Between that and him having solo "artist" albums, I'm slightly skeptical of your egoless depiction of him.
 

Dark Schala

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Globulous Original Soundtrack (zircon, Jeff Ball)



I’d said earlier in the thread that Globulous is essentially 2012’s Mighty Switch Force: a soundtrack that we heard at the last minute but it was too late to change our votes. It’s too bad because Globulous was released in July, and it’s awful we can’t give the soundtrack that props it deserves.

The opener, Dawn Oblique is the first in the series of stunner tracks, which make you question how it was hidden away in a game like this because it’s an incredibly good theme with a piano lead and some electronic complements and percussion supporting it, with brilliant strings taking the theme by the reins. This trend is kind of continued in Thicket Prism (percussion and electronic leads with a lovely violin performance supplied by Ball—seriously, I love it a lot). Violins kind of make me melt, and I honestly wish I’d taken the instrument up in my youth. I like the mixing most of all, because every instrument gets their chance to shine. Finally, Aurora Magnitude fuses electronic tendencies with chiptunes and piano, with Jeff Ball on strings yet again. I like that—composers creating synergy together to create something utterly beautiful. I think Aurora Magnitude is my favourite theme on the soundtrack.

Glass Lattice (lordy, I haven’t heard “lattice” since first year chem) has a very lovely and blend of synth that isn’t necessarily melodic, but rather it sets a very ambient atmosphere. The mixing is very nice here. Obsidian Axiom combines strings of electronica and some chiptune flavour with dubstep in a way that doesn’t make me dislike it. The mix works extremely well and it’s paced very nicely. Cocoon Altitude opens with percussion and synth and then progresses into a beautiful piano-driven melody. Finally, Rain Node adds in some plucked instrumentation with the synth and electronica to some of the chiptunes, and is mixed in such a way that ends up making it feel extraordinarily relaxing.

I think Globulous is a very lovely mix of styles and instrumentation, mixed in a way that makes the entire package seem relaxing and cohesive. It’s a mix of retro and techno, of old and new, and of live and synth. Yet the mixing on this soundtrack is very well-done, and I can’t help but to feel like the duo who worked on this album have really excellent synergy with each other. I can’t wait to hear more from them.​


I'll post Darksiders II in a sec.

I laughed more than I should have at this YouTube comment for the Crazy Bus "song" that you linked:
what you mean that's not the new skrillex jam????? You should hear the select menu theme for that game. And the level BGM? Complete silence! Oh, and the game is amazing. All you do is HOLD RIGHT TO WIN and drive the bus so that it returns to the right side of the screen and accumulate... like... miles or something. I don't know.

Oh, I completely forgot that the Sonic Before the Sequel soundtrack actually has a VGMdb link and it's classified as a doujin album because some of the bgms are remixes (http://vgmdb.net/album/34568).

(btw if you need help let me know)
 

Dark Schala

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Darksiders II Original Soundtrack (Jesper Kyd)



So, Darksiders II was an interesting change musically for the series given that Kyd was given a chance to score the game. The previous sound team (God of War’s Cris Velasco, Mike Reagan and Scott B. Morton) had moved on, and this would signal a shift in terms of compositional style (from bass and orchestration to something different). So given that Darksiders II features overwhelming allusions to death (because you’re playing as Death), compositional flow and instrumentation needed to adhere to that and incorporate that sort of thing. So, that would mean a shift to string work and ambience. And given that Kyd has shown his stuff with regards to ambience on the Assassin’s Creed soundtracks, I don’t think this is necessarily going to be a problem for him.

The soundtrack opens up with The Makers Theme, demonstrative of what Kyd can do with a game’s main theme. He begins crafting the atmosphere with a simple flute melody behind soft string plucking, and evolves into a melancholy violin portion and a section that focuses on percussion and ambience. It sets the tone and weight of the rest of the soundtrack. Eternity combines atmospheric vocal work and strings to create an ethereal and haunting atmosphere. I love that the theme is rather sectional too, with nothing completely being the same.

Makers in the Outlands is carried by guitar riffs and percussion, yet The Corruption provides the listener with maybe some hope in the depths of the dark atmosphere that the album has constructed, with strings and a build with multiple instrumentation layers to a small climax towards the end. And then it gets ripped away in the next track The Makers’ Overworld.

The soundtrack is filled with those sorts of ups and downs, you see. For example, Crystal Spire is yet another track that tries to fill the listener with hope. It’s filled with distorted vocals, chimes, some piano, and some harp-playing. I kind of like how the distortion is worked in here, though, because while it tries to contrast itself with the rest of the pieces on the album, it’s not completely successful and it’s distorted as a result.

Stains of Heresy has a ton of brass and percussion that play around together in way that almost sets up a revelation. The Crowfather is probably the theme that I’ve heard the most about on this soundtrack. The strings build up to a guitar solo, and then it explodes into percussion and brass which isn’t that overwhelming because it lasts for but a few seconds. Death Brings Hope is a percussion-driven theme somewhat interspersed with distortion with some intermittent strings.

Finally Lord of the Black Stone takes many of the motifs used throughout the soundtrack and fuses them with fearful strings, brass, and hard percussion. It ends up creating a frightening atmosphere with a sense of urgency.

Jesper Kyd has managed to craft a rather ominous soundtrack, filled with ambience and orchestration. The first disc is more uplifting than the second, yet the journey to discover what all of the music he has composed has to offer shows that Kyd has composed a complex, emotional, and darker soundtrack that struggles to climb out of the dark atmosphere that he has ended up crafting. Compositionally, it’s quite a delight to listen to.​
 

Nert

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...and another voting period has come to a close! This was easily this topic's most successful year yet, both in the number of participants and the depth of discussion. As always, we would like to thank everyone that participated for taking the time to celebrate these composers' fine works.

The results thread will be ready a week from today at the latest, but I'm hoping to have it done in just a couple of days. It will include NeoGAF's top 15 soundtracks, a finalized archive with every soundtrack that has been mentioned here (along with quotes from your descriptions), a miniature discography for the winning composers, and a brief/voluntary survey for those that want to give us some feedback.

Until that is posted, people are more than welcome to continue the discussion here, but no votes past this point will be counted.