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Comments about the soundtrack for Medal of Honor: Underground (Michael Giacchino)

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Nice to see game music gradually getting more and more attention in the US.
• Posted by: Neo Rasa   <Send E-Mail>
• Date: Tuesday, August 5, 2003, at 7:27 p.m.
• IP Address:

I've been a long time reader of this site but I've never posted til now. It's great to see video games getting more coverage.

I've really enjoyed all of the Medal of Honor sound tracks and I'm hoping it continues to influence US based designers to take the music in their titles more seriously.

It's ironic, video games are my number one passion but it's the gradually increase in the production values of game sound tracks that caused my own musical tastes to branch out into collecting film sound tracks.

If anyone wants to look into game music of the orchestrated, epic style more, check out the music for Headhunter (Dreamcast, Playstation 2), Shenmue II (Sega Dreamcast, X-Box), Xenosaga (Playstation 2), Rygar (Playstation 2), and Eternal Darkness (Gamecube).

Headhunter is a great orchestral score that to me recalls the great action movie scores. Jack's Theme and the other main tracks in Headhunter have a more serious edge to them though.

Shenmue II is basically a LARGE quantity of short interludes and queues that are mostly excellent. Some situation specific techno and hard rock songs work their way in but it mostly has a more traditional sound and arrangement to it than the original Shenmue.

Eternal Darkness has two not so good techno songs and several genuinely scary tracks afterwards. To make up for the relatively short length spoken dialogues from the game are included at the beginning of each track which help establish the nature of the song about to play. The globetrotting nature of the game is effectively dupicliated in the score, however, which manages to get the same feeling and continuity through the music of several different cultures. It and Xenosaga are probably the truest "scores" of the ones listed here.

Rygar is several fully orchestrated queues of a Greco-Roman nature. Very nice and while it doesn't inspire one to take up arms and storm the front lawn of an annoying neighbor the way a Poledouris score would the same sweeping yet visceral feel is attempted (and well met in the Geryon Hill and Colloseo tracks).

Xenosaga the game is an epic space opera, and Xenosaga the original sound track is just what you'd expect from such a thing. Basically a mix of sci-fi inspired orchestral tracks.

Now the hard (or fun, depending on how much you consider getting their to be half the fun) part: There are TONS of quality orchestral game sound tracks out there, but many get a very limited release and, in the case of game sound tracks originating in Japan you won't be able to get any of them stateside outside of an import shop or ordering them online.

The other difficult part about getting into this is, as I said, the production values. Some of the greatest "orchestral" pieces in video game history were programmed and played on various synthesized hardware due to the limitations of the game platforms themselves. Unfortunately as the technology improved music I (and probably many other patrons of this site) would consider noise pollution became popular among the designers, so you have huge production values being wasted on some generic trash while many of the better musical works the video game industry has put out remain in a crude, synthesized form. Arranged and orchestral versions of said sound tracks that take the same composition and set it to excellent sound and instrument quality are commonplace in Japan but have never caught on in most other countries so you have your work cut out for you. Those ASTs usually end up becoming collector's items of sorts in this hemisphere which unfortunate as it means many people can only access much of this huge (and if you ask me not properly appreciated) body of music via the internet. The Final Fantasy franchise is a good example of this. The earlier scores are excellent but made with the sound capabilities of the Nintendo and Super Nintendo in mind, that's not going to be very ear-pleasing to anyone who often listens to a full out orchestral sound track. However by the time technology caught a year after the release of the superb Final Fantasy VI the creativity left, so the recent scores have superb quality, but have many queues lifted straight from other sound tracks that keeps them from being anything more than average when listened to.

The final problem is the album content itself. Video games lend themselves to scenario based gameplay, and as a result many game sound tracks will have a wide variety of genres represented on them which is definitely a BAD thing if you're only looking for a certain type of sound track song, as you'll only get one or two such traks from the whole album. A perfect example is Fatal Fury 3: Road to the Final Victory (Neo Geo, PC, etc.). It's mostly hard rock songs typical of the franchise but also contains two gorgeous classical pieces that you're not going to hear on any other album.

The final problem with game music is that, unfortunately, most of it doesn't get published on a sound track cd. Even Headhunter's score, receiving both critial and popular acclaim from anyone who's heard it, was only published as a promotional album to be given away with people who pre-ordered the Playstation 2 version of the game. Eternal Darkness can be ordered very inexpensively from Nintendo's own homepage. Most of the others were only released in Japan so one would have to find a store that stocks Japanese music or order them from or another similar site.

Damn. I began making this post simply to express my approval of Giacchino's work and say I was happy that game music is gradually being more and more accepted and look at the monstrosity it turned into. I guess I could have just said that I feel game music IS worth seriously looking into in general. If anyone wants some help or recommendations I'd be glad to offer what I can.

Comments in this Thread:     Expand >>
  •   Nice to see game music gradually getting more and more attention in the US.  (3628 views)    We're Here
       Neo Rasa - Tuesday, August 5, 2003, at 7:27 p.m.

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