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In Extremis

2020 Soundtrack Saturdays

Released in 2017 as the sequel to the successful WiiU shooter, Splatoon 2 eventually saw DLC in the following year. There was a lot of music made for the game, as its composers decided to make diegetic music of several genres, often overlapping several genres at the time to great success. One of the things the game’s composer does often is repurposing themes, a tool we’ll be listening to today.
There are two themes we’re going to hear throughout “New You”, the track(s) that play in each of the shops for gear and weapons. The first theme is a two-note motif first heard from an electric guitar that sort of foreshadows the second motif. We hear the second motif, which is our most melodic motif around 22” into the shoe shop version (the first sub-track). Try to hear each of these in each of the four sub-tracks, at the following timestamps: 0:35, 1:10, and 1:43.

Since I mentioned the history of the game last week when I discussed the track “New You (DJ Real Sole)”, this week I will instead briefly discuss the cross-genre approach of the game’s soundtrack. Across the series there is Punk, Alt-Rock, Ska, J-Pop, Teen Pop, EDM, Celtic Punk, Punk Jazz, Vaporwave, Urban, and the somewhat indecipherable genre of the game mode that features the music we’ll be listening to today. In the game’s world, the soundtracks for each mode are made up by bands and groups that exist within the canon of the Splatoon Universe, or the splatverse if you will.
There are three main elements to not only this track but all music of Omega-3 (the “band” that plays the music for the Salmon Run game mode). They are a Cello (often distorted), Timpani, and a DJ who can be assumed to be either or both distorting and effecting the other two musicians while also playing samples. We hear these three elements immediately at the start of the track, with a glissando up effected by glitches and distortion over a simple and aggressive timpani two-note pattern. This is layered over by a less-distorted cello for most of the piece and sampled percussion, synths, and other odd sound effects. My favourite sound effect can be heard at 0:40-:42 or so and is a doorbell chime.

I’m wrapping up my coverage (for now) of this great game and it’s soundtrack this week with a look at one of the post-match themes. I thought it appropriate since we are moving on from this game to have the defeat theme grace our ears.
Beginning with a guitar and/or synth hit and some crunchy digital percussion, we get our “melody” that I am obsessed with the past week. It is clearly processed vocals, but it drifts back and forth between being a clearly modified vocal line and smooth synth as the processing is not consistent. There are some fun, quick, turn-of-phrase licks that catch you every handful of measures as the rest of the instrumentation slows or pauses to propel your ears back into the groove.

Moving on from the Splatoon series, we move on to another Nintendo Series, that much like the recent Yoshi games, has a distinct visual aesthetic that changes with each game. For this Kirby game that released in 2015 as the sequel to the DS’ Canvas Curse, the look is one of claymation and candy. Much of the game looks hand-made, or rather hand-sculpted and several recurring objects through the game have a food aesthetic, specifically cake decorating and other confections. 
The track opens up with a harp arpeggiating underneath a piano, a constant feature of this piece of music. After we slowly move through a few chords, we’re introduced to a  s p a c e y  and wonderful guitar effect that combines pitchbend, delay, and feedback. This transitions us into a section where the harp features a melody in a lower range along with a counter melody in the upper piano. After some more spacey effects, we loop.

Playable outside Japan only in 2008 when First Departure launched as a remake for the PlayStation Portable, Star Ocean First Departure was an real-time-action roleplaying game. Remade again as First Departure R on the Switch and PS4 in 2019, the game featured voice acting as far back as the original version on the Super Famicom. The game spawned a short series of 5 games, and 3 spin-offs, not counting the remake and remaster.
We begin with two sets of struck metal or bells arpeggiating, a low string bassline, and a woodwind carrying a melody. This continues, with some minor percussion shakers doing a brief shuffle every few bars until we lose the woodwind to a harp that arpeggiates through a melody line. After a brief flurry on the harp, we get a synth to smoothly present a countermelody to the original melody, after which we hear the original again because it’s time for a loop.

Released in 2012 by Subset Games, FTL is a game where you control the crew of a spacecraft as it travels through space to deliver information. It is a real-time combat roguelike that asks players to recruit new crew, upgrade the ship, and combat various enemies in order to reach the goal. The game’s music is composed by Ben Prunty.
“Rockmen (Explore)” opens with a typical synth arp and melody that we would expect from a science-fiction or space game, but we’ll soon find out that this is not purely ambient. Around 40 seconds in we get a driving and percussive variant of the synth, adding some explosive and distorted percussion on top after a series of chords. Occasionally the chord stabs will be layered with some more synths, and we have a fleeting melody on a smooth sine wave that appears briefly. At several points the track has a sweep into brief silence, at which point the track builds instrumentation from a single idea again.

February 15

Cloud: Cycling

Made by the developers who founded the company (thatgamecompany) that has released previously covered games fl0w, Flower, and Journey, Cloud was released in 2005 as a puzzle game, and was scored by Vincent Diamante. Often referred to as an “experience” instead of a game by critics, Cloud was a relatively overnight success, capitulating in crashing its own website as well as the University of Southern California’s due to high demand.
There are a few main features of the track—the harp ostinato, a bell that marks phrases, and scattered piano notes. We begin with the harp ostinato and a few piano notes at a time as we slowly introduce some more sustained notes of smooth swelling strings and a flute melody. We slowly work our way by halfway through the second minute (~1:30) to the climax by way of brass before we strip the track down to its simple underpinnings and develop some more scatterings of piano. We reach another brass-driven climax around 2:30 as well, though it is not a true loop. This pattern roughly continues, making changes but keeping the same ebb and flow.

The enigmatic Mother (or EarthBound) series’s third and likely final installment was released for the GBA in 2006 and WiiU Virtual Console in 2015, both exclusively in Japan. Still though, the soundtrack got a CD release, and despite not being scored by Suzuki and Tanaka but instead by Shogo Sakai, it still feels very much like the franchise should sound.
It is those typical sounds from a Mother game that we begin the track with, a very digital pad and a delay and reverb laden toy piano (a sound also used very heavily in the Mana series). These emotional chords and ‘piano’ scattered melodies give way to sharp string staccatos that crescendo and diminuendo repeatedly to serve as an ostinato briefly with a very low and slow bassline before repeating.

February 29

Fly’n: Unavedi

Fly’n was released in 2012 for PC and developed by Ankama Games. The game consists of using four different characters called Buds that have unique abilities to solve puzzle-platformer challenges. The game’s soundtrack was composed by Guillaume Pervieu.
The track begins with a vibraphone and a heavy tremolo guitar circling around each other and outlining a melody. Quickly, some percussion and synth processed winds join for swells and stabs. After a while, these too break apart to circle around a steady beat for a while. The guitar takes over as the driving force around 1:30, though that does not last for long and we return to the steady beat surrounded by quick and fleeting instrumentation.

Knytt Underground is a sequel to Knytt and Within a Deep Forest by the developer known as Nifflas released in 2012. The game combines exploratory elements of Metroidvania games and arcade platformers. Along with the developer’s own songs, a handful of other musicians contributed to the soundtrack and we will be listening to one of D Fast’s tracks today.
Opening with spacey bells and a large amount of reverb, we soon get a smooth and short synth that fades in and out as it arpeggiates. An electronic piano sits beautifully on top of some string chords briefly before the mood relaxes after a brief moment of tension. The majority of the track has this chill vibe, with steady but uneven percussion that rolls in and out of the middleground of the mix. Different instruments momentarily shine for a phrase or so each, briefly pausing for arpeggiating builds before relaxing the tension away again.

March 14

Fez: Majesty

Though it has been covered before (twice) already in the Soundtrack Saturday series I had not yet listened to this game. Yet another game released in 2012, it was designed by Phil Fish and its soundtrack was composed by Disasterpeace. The game is notable for its use of the gameplay that requires you to rotate the world 90º at a time.
The chord sequence that makes up the backbone of this track slowly fades in and is played by synths that are reminiscent of old chiptune soundtracks. With fuzz and distortion combined with modern elements, these synths grow from a series of chords to a melody interwoven amongst the chords. With mastery of his craft, Disasterpeace creates synths that are at once both unique instruments and hardly distinguishable from each other. With little in the way of variety in terms of instrumentation—some percussion is added in the last third or so of the piece—this piece tells its story through harmonic and melodic movements.

As a celebration of Animal Crossing’s newest entry, I thought it fitting we would look back at the title theme from the original game. Released in 2001-04 depending on the region, the game is a life simulator or a “communication” game (per Nintendo). The soundtrack features the work of composers Kazumi Totaka, Kenta Nagata, Toru Minegishi (whose work we have listened to previously), and Shinobu Tanaka.
Taking cues from smooth jazz but at a quicker tempo, the main theme of Animal Crossing’s first outing begins first with just a drumset, but we quickly get some some piano vamping. This piano noodling features a simple and playful melody that walks above, below, in, and around the chords in such a way that it is effective at convincing a listener that there is more going on than just piano and drums!

A fun game where the developer and the composer are the same person! A game from Whitaker Trebella, Polymer is a mobile-designed game where the player matches shapes to create polymers. Today we listen to one of the five pieces of music from the game—from the gamemode One Polymer.
Much like last week, this track also takes cues from modern jazz subgenres, beginning with synthesized basslines and an echo-heavy countermelody. We get slow percussion evocative a distorted smooth jazz, with some electric piano that constantly floats just over the top, briefly offering snippets of jazz fusion melodies.

How long has it been since we listened to some music from the Legend of Zelda series? One internet point if you stop reading and guess now.
Okay, it’s been about three and a half months—December 21, 2019 was our last coverage of Zelda music. Though I have covered Zelda music many times, and even once before from this game, I thought it important to note that one of the composers (Toru Minegishi) from the original Animal Crossing game also worked on this game! Today’s track is “Agitha’s Castle” which is a misnomer. Her “castle” is in Castle Town, but it is just the inside of a house. Filled with bugs.
Anyway, in an effort to dispel the ickyness of a room filled with bugs collected by a girl obsessed with them, this song is so cutesy. There are a few main elements that make this work: the driving piano that rocks back and forth between diads before turning to on-beat chords, echo-heavy metallic bells that carry the main melody, and synth flutes that repeat the main melody in counter-phrases.

Released in 2012 (seems to be a good year for soundtracks) as a sequel to Final Fantasy XIII, XIII-2 kept many of the same systems in place, which allowed for refinement. Three composers worked on this game, a departure from many other games in the series. Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, and Mitsuto Suzuki worked on the game, with the latter two producing roughly a quarter of the game’s music each, and Hamazu creating around half.
The main instrument in the first thirty seconds is striking, and very reminiscent of the main instrument from one of my favourite Metroid tracks: “Phendrana Drifts” from Metroid Prime. After this, we are treated to what was a focus from the game’s producer: more vocals. Over the piano and the silky strings, the singer floats in and out smoothly like water with its ebbs and flows. Digitally processed instruments and vocals echo or double the track’s long and drawn out melody over several points in the track.

The Floor is Jelly is another puzzle-platformer scored by Disasterpeace, and it is again masterful. Developed by Ian Snyder and released in 2014, the game imagines if the entire world was made out of non-Newtonian fluids. Everything is bouncy!
Unlike much of Disasterpeace’s other work, this does not open with synths or chiptunes, but a distorted Hang-like instrument (an instrument in the new family of handpans). A slow and disjointed acoustic bassline joins the pan noodling, and several distorted reverbs and effects create the illusion of tree leaves shaking in the wind, or a similar natural environment.

Another game from 2012, this game is also a developer/composer combination. Dustforce is a precise platformer, where the player controls a janitor. Released in 2012, it has seen multiple updates adding new content and music and is available on Steam, PS3, and Xbox 360.

The track begins with a sweet and uplifting arpeggiation that is sometimes affected by EQ, usually at the ends of phrases. To go with this is an interesting machine-ish noise, flickering between left and right in the panning. We get a build courtesy of the high hats and a sweep before having a flute lead and a “snare” for backbeat. The arpeggiation is sometimes doubled and layered with the same instrument outlining bits of melody. The snare departs briefly but returns when the flute continues a more segmented melody. The second half of the track contains my favourite bit, an instrument that slowly adds more effects and processing as it repeatedly cascades down. Once it fully transforms, we return to a very similar mood to earlier without this new sound, and mix it in again on the next phrase as the track ends.

Super Mario 64 was a groundbreaking game in many regards, and another gem composed by Koji Kondo. We have discussed 64 once before and the two Galaxy games many times, but the first open-ish levels were in this game, and such the music is radically different from what came before.

We begin with a toy-piano sound playing music typical of a lullaby that repeats this simple phrase four times with slight variation each time concentrated towards the end of each phrase. After this, we get a repetitive figure over the chord changes of the previous phrase. This too repeats before we return to the beginning.

Released in 1999, the Lode Runner series is an platforming puzzler game, often called the trap-em-up genre. What we’re listening to today is the soundtrack for the Bonus Stage.

We begin immediately in the groove, with a repetitive piano riff over a drum loop and an occasional bass guitar, but that changes quickly after a few phrases. Gone is the piano instead opting for a bell-like keyboard and a more prominent role for the bass. After a few phrases of this, the piano does return with its original riff and the bass mostly falls back to its occasional role. By the second time around, it is clear that the track is made of these two groupings of phrases and alternates between them.

Mario Party is, as evident by the name best enjoyed as a party game. Released in 1999 in Japan and 2000 worldwide, the game sees players fight for stars and defeat Bowser to secure the rights to an amusement park. This takes the form of mini-games that often pit the players against each other and eventually Bowser himself.

After a nostalgic and heartfelt introduction, the more relaxing theme begins. With a smooth bassline and bouncy melody that is carried by many instruments, over a series of changing percussion scenes this staff credits theme is no exception to Nintendo’s tradition of having relatively lavish credit themes (looking at you as an exception, Breath of the Wild). After trading the melody a handful of times, a string-heavy variation more akin to an expanded beginning section leads us back to the relaxing and bouncy section.

Like the previous game, this was released in 1999 in Japan and worldwide in 2000. The full subtitle is “Person of Lordly Caliber”, and it made significant changes form its predecessors to be a game of lordly caliber. I’ve got jokes now. The game was also the first to not feature a subtitle that used a Queen song. The game went on to have the second largest N64 cartridge at 320 megabits, and is a real-time tactical rpg.

We begin with a harp arpeggiation underneath a fantastical flute melody that briefly becomes a woodwind quintet before the strings are introduced. The track slowly builds drama by adding instrumentation and shifting to darker chords before looping back to the more traditional fantasy sound heard at the beginning.

To wrap our accidental N64 month, we’re looking at the Staff Credits from Mario Party 3. Released in Japan at the end of 2000 and worldwide in 2001. The game contained 71 mini-games, and introduced the duel mode and story mode, where players compete against computer controlled players in a shortened party mode through each board.

With a cute toy-piano chord progression over sleighbells and slow smooth strings, the Staff Credits begins with a heartwarming remembrance of the game. Slowly over more phrases instrumentation is added until it turns into a full, dynamic orchestration that fizzles out into simple instruments. This slow and warm theme continues for some time until we loop back to the beginning after a brief pause.

The original Metroid Prime is the fifth game in the series, and the first to be 3D as well as being played in first-person. It was well received at launch and continues to be praised almost two decades after its release in 2002 for the GameCube.

The opening drone-like instrument is one of my favourites and I have many synths like it over the past few months as I listen to more of this video game music. Set over this evolving drone, this track is mostly comprised of a piano riff that loosely arpeggiates chords. Some percussion is added to it along with a choir that falls away as a harp run fades in and out over piano stabs. While simplistic, the continued use of the evolving drone-like instrument keeps the track fresh even after a loop.

Released in late 2003 in Japan, late 2004 in NA, and elsewhere in 2005, Baten Kaitos was one of Monolith Soft’s first games and was an interesting mix of turn- and action-based battles, as well as card games. While the game was a critical success, it was just enough of one commercially to spawn a sequel.

We begin with two guitars, one arpeggiating and playing chords while the other covers melodic duties. With an energetic and highly variable rhythm, the melody quickly shifts back and forth from being frantic to relaxed. This relaxed feeling is especially audible when both guitars slow down to the same pace. For a few phrases while the melodic guitar has a less complex rhythm, the guitars are backed by reverb-heavy clapping, showing the track’s influence from Spanish guitar styles.

I am surprised we have not yet covered the Pikmin franchise in these weekly discussions yet. Released in 2001 for the GameCube, the first Pikmin game introduced us to Olimar and the first four species of pikmin. Today we listen to the map theme, also called “View”.

This track is emblematic of Pikmin music, using most of a full orchestra’s instrumentation, but in small groupings that feel intimate, sparse, and cutesy. We open with a brief bit of synth before an orchestral buildup featuring typical pairings such as bells/flute, brass/strings, and harp/woodwinds. We continue with bells and woodwinds being paired over a reed melody and driving strings before the melody is paired. This instrumentation of pairing bells and driving short strings underneath long brass notes and several woodwind instruments on the same melody persists for the rest of the track.

A spin-off of the main Final Fantasy series, Crystal Chronicles was released in 2003 in Japan, and elsewhere the following year. It was also the first to be released on a Nintendo console since VI in 1994. Kumi Tanioka, as mentioned on a previous Soundtrack Saturday makes extensive use of medieval/renaissance instrumentation throughout the score. 

Over a strummed instrument and percussion, we can hear a very Final Fantasy esque melody in a woodwind, likely a recorder. This melody continues as the strumming turns to arpeggiation of the chords instead and loops back before being replaced by bagpipes. The percussion consisting of tambourine, a small drum, and woodblocks stays static throughout.

The newest installment in the Animal Crossing series is New Horizons and released this year (2020). Yasuaki Iwata, Yumi Takahashi, Shinobu Nagata, Sayako Doi, and Masato Ohashi were the composers for the game, and most if not all of the game’s soundtrack is recorded from live musicians rather than samples. If you have not seen the musicians play the opening theme, you can watch a video here. I am especially inspired MATARO’s performances.

This theme plays on Nook Miles islands at night and features a guitar and steel drums. These are accompanied by a digital piano that usually plays a chord every measure or so, and multiple shakers. A fairly simple track, the guitar and steel drums spend the majority of the track trading off the lead of a melody over a vamp played by the digital piano. At the conclusion of every few phrases there is a lively tag where the digital piano doubles faster chords with the steel drums.

Released in 2008 as the third installment of the notable Super Smash Bros. franchise, Brawl introduced some new features to the series and most notably several characters. The game has been a critical mix, noting the poor competitive play but an expansive single player experience, while the game also a marked improvement in graphics for the series.

The Trophy Gallery is unlocked and filled by obtaining trophies in the game, and like many Nintendo sub-menu tunes, is heavily inspired by Bossa Nova. The instrumentation is fairly typical for the genre. Following a short introduction where we are introduced to the piano’s vamp accompanied by an upright bassline, a smooth guitar melody, and percussion including shakers and claves, the first major phrase features a piano melody roughly in the middle of the instrument. The second phrase features an extremely similar melody in the upper register of the piano that is taken over and modified by the flute complete with many flourishes. The next section features a bass solo and introduces the triangle before building back up with flute to a point that can loop to the beginning.

Another game released in 2008, Mario Kart Wii is the 6th game in the series, and featured motion controls to mimic steering controls augmented by the wii wheel accessory. According to the Guiness World Records, Mario Kart Wii is the best-selling racing game of all time. The music was composed by Asuka Ota & Ryo Nagamatsu.

The Options menu featured one of the more lively, upbeat, and strange tracks of the game. The track features two phrases, a funky four-measure bassline and a two-measure phrase that is heard after at least two repeats of the other phrase. Over the four-measure bassline are a number of odd sounds in addition to the multiple synths and electric piano sounds used for a melody. The percussion sounds metallic-invoking a garage?-while there are phone sounds used to accent the melody.

In a continuation of our almost-entirely Wii music month, today we listen to music from Wii Sports. Released in 2006 alongside the console itself as a demonstration of the motion control’s capabilities, the game has gone on to be one of the highest selling single game titles in the world.

The song is extremely reminiscent of 5am from Animal Crossing Wild World and City Folk which came out in 2005 and 2012 respectively for the DS. The track features only a reverb-laden piano, shakers, and a few other percussion instruments. The piano melody is repeated with minor variations at the end of each line before it is allowed to fade underneath the constant percussion.

Released in 2016 for the 3DS, Sun and Moon garnered mixed reviews. The games have been praised for deviating from a decades-old formula, but derided for a lack of post-story content that was traditionally expected. Regional forms were a notable inclusion to the game and while they did introduce variance in place of additional new species, many felt that the designs were not appealing.

A jazz style night theme is not unusual for a pokémon or Nintendo game, and this theme straddles the line between relaxing and upbeat. A shimmering digital piano is the featured instrument, accompanied by a hammond organ, trumpet, piano, and percussion. In alternating phrases the trumpet takes the melody for the majority of a phrase, and the organ plays flourishes or turns at the end of phrases for variety.

Composed by Tomoya Tomita and released with the game Kirby’s Epic Yarn in 2010 for Japan and 2011 worldwide, the soundtrack consists mostly of Piano with some accompaniment interspersed. The game was re-released as Kirby’s Extra Epic Yarn for 3DS in 2019 to mixed reviews.

The introduction of the track sets up a simple 2 bar phrase that is examined through variation for the remainder of the track and is solely piano. Bass notes in the lower range of the piano do not appear for the first 30-35 seconds of the song and are absent for long sections, making their use in transitionary portions and more emotive chords notable from the lighthearted majority of the track.

Released for the Nintendo 64 in 1997, Diddy Kong Racing was an alternative to the Mario Kart series with a Rare-dominated roster, and while some of the characters have made appearances again on Nintendo games and consoles, many have not after the sale of Rareware to Microsoft. As with many of Rare’s early titles, the music is composed by David Wise.

The track is a collection of synth lines to form a funky foundation, including a bouncing short arpeggiated synth that pans between ears every other beat, a distorted synth that mostly functions as the bassline, and two organs that mostly feature as occasional chord stabs with flourishes from time to time. Underneath all of these synths are surprisingly straightforward drums that lay right on the backbeat.

We are back to listen to Mario Party 2 and this time, it is an extended version! I usually don’t share the extended versions, but this song was only 30 second by itself, so I felt it was warranted. As a reminder since we last covered this game in May, it was released in 1999 for the Nintendo 64.

The main melody is evocative of “Zora’s Domain” from the Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time in it’s chordal arpeggiations and in the similar instrumentation, but is backed up by a danceable and lively percussion section. Other than the percussion, bassline, and main melody, there is a Bossa-like digital piano that changes chords after every two measures and loops its progression quickly.

Today we’re listening to more music by Nobuo Uematsu, this time from Final Fantasy IX, which is a game I do not believe I’ve covered before. Released in 2000 to critical acclaim, the game was a return to more of a medieval setting than previous installments. 

Beginning with a chorus of plucked strings and a delicate bell every now and then, we wait for our melody line consisting of a flute and doubled with a different bell instrument. After a few phrases we move to a new bass-centric melody augmented by a dense choir and tremolo strings. After a couple phrases of this, we are prepared to loop.

Released for the Playstation 2 in 2005, Legend of Kay is an action-platformer about restoring peace on an island inhabited by humanoid animals. The game did well enough to garner a rerelease on DS, and an anniversary remaster in 2015 for most consoles, coming to Switch in 2018.

We start with two ostinatos that encircle each other on harp and some wooden keyboards before we get our first taste of the melody from the horn. After a phrase the ostinatos change and we have slow, smooth chords in the strings and a new harp/marimba rhythm. Our melody is in a reed instrument now to create a serene feeling while everything but the strings is bouncy around it. After a few phrases, we loop.

September 12

Opoona: Meditation

Released for Nintendo Wii in 2007, Opoona is a role-playing game where you control the titular hero and family to rescue the rest of his family. The game features many former Square, Enix, and Square-Enix notables from games like Dragon Quest, and the composer of Final Fantasy XII Hitoshi Sakimoto.

A beautiful and ambient track, Meditation invokes its namesake with plenty of pad-like textures to start with. After a couple of soft piano chords, we get some percussion that fades in while the pads fade out. Our melody is in a very 80s-like synth pad at first, then in a more digital and woodwind pair. Just beautiful and tranquil.

September 19

Skullgirls: Daybreak

Released digitally for consoles in 2012, Skullgirls is a 2D fighting game with some fun twists such as non-1v1-fights and unbalanced teams. The soundtrack was composed by Michiru Yamane, Vincent Diamante, Blaine McGurty, and Brenton Kossak. Yamane is notable for her work on the Castlevania games.

Beginning with a guitar, we’re slowly introduced to a cello that functions as a bassline to the soon-to-be introduced melody in a low flute. After joining with more woodwinds, we get some octave doubling of the bassline by higher strings that drives home the somber mood before returning to the guitar alone.

A platformer released in 2014, later for PS4, and even later for Switch, it was the first major release for Studio Pixel since Cave Story in 2004. The game received positive reviews, especially for its control scheme on the mobile version released for iOS. Like many other games I’ve expressed love for in the past, Kero Blaster too was composed by its developer.

A harkening back to chiptune days, there’s a low synth that has long sustains followed by staccatos to give the melody synth and arpeggiations room. It’s a true four channel piece, with melody, arpeggiation/short synth, bass, and percussion. 

While numbered as the tenth game in the series, it is not the tenth game released for the Final Fantasy franchise, and also boasts the title of fifth-highest-selling PlayStation 2 game. Developed by Square with composition by Nobuo Uematsu, Masashi Hamauzu, and Junya Nakano, this track was specifically handled by Hamauzu.

The song opens with and is entirely by a jaunty ostinato/progression in the guitar that evokes a beach atmosphere to me. Eventually the ostinato turns to more soloistic and virtuosic playing that carries direct restatements and variations of the melody from Suteki Da Ne.

We’re back with Opoona again for the second time in two months. We’ve already talked about its composer, but did you know it released (on Japan) on the same day as Super Mario Galaxy? That’s tough competition.

The enigmatic Mother (or EarthBound) series’s third and likely final installment was released for the GBA in 2006 and WiiU Virtual Console in 2015, both exclusively in Japan. Still though, the soundtrack got a CD release, and despite not being scored by Suzuki and Tanaka but instead by Shogo Sakai, it still feels very much like the franchise should sound.

Quite possibly the oldest game I’ve covered here, Drakkhen was a proto-3D game for the Amiga and Atari that saw its biggest reception on the SNES and DOS releases. It has since been ported to Steam and other computer platforms, and had a sequel on the SNES. The game’s music was expanded for the SNES release, and was handled by Hiroyuki Masuno.

Much like the game Fez that I have much love for, Owlboy is a retro-sentimental platformer, a game that plays and looks like platformers of decades past but is a very recent game. Also like Fez the game had a long development cycle, beginning work in 2007 and releasing for Windows in 2016, and consoles in 2018. Jonathan Geer composed the music for the game, which we are about to listen to.

An Obsidian action role-playing game finally released in 2019 (with a Switch port in 2020!), The Outer Worlds is a game that combines a branching narrative and choice system with absurd humour, gunplay, and science-fiction elements. Justin E. Bell composed the soundtrack, though this piece might remind you of Jeremy Soule’s Taris music from Knights of the Old Republic.

An MMO from the early aughts, Ragnarök Online is based heavily on Norse mythology, as one might guess. I don’t have a lot to talk about about the game itself, as it’s undergone numerous transformations and updates, much unlike the typical standalone games I talk about. Additionally, the music was handled by a team known as SoundTeMP from Korea, though RO was not their first MMORPG.

Released in 1996, Wave Race was an early Nintendo 64 game that showed off the power of the console most notably in its water physics and depiction of a simultaneously transparent and reflective surface. At one point the game featured boats with transformational powers rather than jet skis. The music was handled by Kazumi Totaka, who was also the composer for Mario Paint, Link’s Awakening, the original Animal Crossing, and several other games I’ve covered in the past. 

The sequel to Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas, a well-received Zelda-influenced game, was originally released for the Apple Arcade in 2019, making this one of few very recent games I’ve covered. Unlike its predecessor, Oceanhorn 2 is an open-world game and has been compared to Breath of the Wild in that regard. Though multiple composers worked on the original (including Nobuo Uematsu!), Kalle Ylitalo took over sole duties for the prequel.

Arriving with mixed reviews in 1994 and ported to many consoles, Ecco II: The Tides of Time is an extremely similar game to its predecessor, with all of the good and bad. One of the good aspects throughout the series is the music, which was composed by Spencer Nilsen for the Sega CD version of the game.

Digimon World released for the playstation in 1999, 2000, or 2001 depending on location and centered around a central location of File City. In the game, the player had to fight all of the digimon who have become feral and return to the aforementioned city, eventually culminating in a boss battle. Fairly ahead of its time, the game had different music for day/night in its central city, though with an extremely small number of locations it does make sense.

Released on pretty much every platform you can think of between 2014 and 2017, Octodad Deadliest Catch is a sequel to the freeware game Octodad. The catch with gameplay in this series that you are an octopus attempting to mimic human motion, but you can only control two limbs at a time: either the arms or legs. Seth Parker and Ian McKinney composed the music for Deadliest Catch, with Seth Parker continuing from the original.

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