By Levi . September 5, 2007 . 12:02pm
Ask a gamer what makes a great game, and the first answer you'll most likely get will almost undoubtedly be either graphics or gameplay. But one very important and oft overlooked part of what makes a game great is the soundtrack. The music in a video game can touch us, make us scared, make us feel closer to a character, and make us feel like we're part of the game's world. A good score is just as important a part of game design as graphics, story, or gameplay. Sadly, some soundtracks end up overlooked by all but the most hardcore of fans. Sure, we all know and love stuff like Final Fantasy and Silent Hill's music, but what about some of the more overlooked arrangements that, for various reasons, go unnoticed? Well, that's what this article's about. Soundtracks that, be it due to bad game marketing, being from a relatively unknown game, or just not being heard by enough people, never got the recognition they truly deserve. So read on for five soundtracks that should not be missed by any aficionado of video game music.
The Revenge of Shinobi (aka The Super Shinobi)
Composer: Yuzo Koshiro
Composed by the legendary composer of the Streets of Rage series' music, The Revenge of Shinobi's soundtrack is far and away the best in the series. Sounding, not surprisingly, quite similar to Koshiro's other works, it really gives you a feel for Joe Musashi's world. The first stage's music, aptly titled "The Shinobi", has a very "ninja" feel to it, combining the standard "video game" sound with a very "feudal Japan" beat. And the boss music, "Terrible Beat"…oh my. It's probably second only to Ninja Gaiden's boss theme on the list of the best boss themes ever. Very upbeat, it gives you a sense of urgency and imminent danger. Definitely a soundtrack not to be missed by fans of the Shinobi series, or fans of Yuzo Koshiro's other works.
Track 02: The Shinobi
Track 03: Terrible Beat
Track 23: Flash Flash Flash (Arrange Version)
Guilty Gear Isuka
Composer: Daisuke Ishiwatari
Often considered the "black sheep" of the Guilty Gear series, Guilty Gear Isuka is a four-player version of Arc System Works' popular 2D fighting franchise. A good idea in concept, it kinda failed in execution due to the turn button mechanic, which forced you to press a button to turn around. Regardless of any gameplay flaws it had, the fact that it has an amazing soundtrack can't be denied. While it retained the series' trademark hard rock sound, Guilty Gear Isuka's soundtrack also went in a bit of a different direction with some tracks. Tracks like "Home Sweet Grave", with it's techno backing beat and "Drumhead Pulsation", with it's tribal drums add some freshness to the tried and true Guilty Gear formula. But it's not all different, as tracks like "Sheep Will Sleep (if you become fatigued)" and "Riches in Me" are standard Guilty Gear fare, with loud, crushing guitars and devastating, brain-melting drums. And that's in no way a bad thing, mind you.
Track 02: Sheep Will Sleep (if you become fatigued)
Track 05: Riches in Me
Track 08: The Irony of Chaste
Composer: Hiroshi Iuchi
Ahh yes, Ikaruga. Treasure's masterpiece shmup that went largely ignored by US gamers due to it's (very limited) American release, exclusively on the Gamecube. However, it has a huge cult following among diehard shmup fans. And for very good reason. Simply put, Ikaruga is an amazing game. But equally amazing as it's gameplay is it's soundtrack. If you had to sum up Ikaruga's soundtrack in only one word, that word would undoubtedly be "strong". From the opening notes of the first stage's music, "Ideal", Ikaruga's soundtrack grabs ahold of you and doesn't let go. Very orchestral in nature, Ikaruga's music is absolutely epic, and very befitting, as well. I couldn't think of more perfect music to accompany a game like Ikaruga.
Track 02: Ideal
Track 04: Trial
Track 07: Reality
Composer: Hideyuki Fukasawa
What can I say about Chaos Legion…Well, it's hard. REALLY hard. While it had tons of style, it was really an average game. But it's soundtrack is ANYTHING but average. Fusing modern techno and rock with choirs and synths, Chaos Legion's soundtrack is nothing short of awe-inspiring. Tracks like "Choir of Curse" really get your blood pumping and your brain thinking "alright, it's go time", while tracks like "Ravine of Silence" and "Now I See" are calmer, reflective pieces that still manage to capture the sense of urgency that is prevalent throughout the entire soundtrack. To put it bluntly, Chaos Legion's soundtrack is one of the most amazing pieces of music I've ever heard.
Track 07: Choir of Curse
Track 15: Feel no Fear
Track 23: Now I See
Composer: Masaharu Iwata
And finally we come to Baroque, which might be THE single most beautiful game soundtrack in existence, and certainly the most amazing piece of music I've ever heard in a video game, perhaps even the most amazing I've ever heard in any medium EVER. For those of you who don't know (and I suspect that's a great many of you), Baroque is a game that's very little-known outside of Japan. A first-person dungeon crawler in the vein of Wizardry, Shadow Tower, and King's Field, Baroque was released for the Sega Saturn in 1998 and Sony Playstation in 1999. The album's opener, "Great Heat 20320514", begins with a techno beat and then is quickly overtaken by crushing drums and an awesome synthesizer melody. The real amazing part of the album begins at track 9, titled "One Foot in the Grave", and continues until track 14, "Hold Baroque Inside". These six songs, when played back to back, comprise one of the greatest aural experiences any music fan could ever have. In particular, "Hold Baroque Inside" is especially wonderful. Haunting, stunning, and inspiring all at once, it remains the single greatest musical composition I have personally ever heard, and I ask, no, I BEG of everyone reading this article to find SOME way to experience this track for yourselves. Find this album. Be it through eBay, Play-Asia, Yahoo Japan Auctions, or whatever, it doesn't matter. If you have to track down an import PSX and a copy of Baroque, DO IT. It's more worth it than you'll ever know.
Track 09: One Foot in the Grave
Track 10: Alice In
Track 11: One
Track 12: Neverending Cycle
Track 13: Multiplex
Track 14: Hold Baroque Inside
So there you have it. Five video game soundtracks that, while maybe not as well known as the works of say, Nobuo Uematsu, are still well worth your time and attention. So what are you waiting for? Get out there, track down these albums, and enjoy some of the best music to ever come out of video games!