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Comments about the soundtrack for Medal of Honor: Underground (Michael Giacchino)
Nice to see game music gradually getting more and more attention in the US.

Neo Rasa
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  Responses to this Comment:
Ed Hodson
Nice to see game music gradually getting more and more attention in the US.   Tuesday, August 5, 2003 (7:27 p.m.) 

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 www.cdjapan.com 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.

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Ed Hodson
(dial-62-64-232-229.access.uk.tisc
ali.com)

  In Response to:
Neo Rasa

  Responses to this Comment:
Neo Rasa
Re: Expanded points of film music   Sunday, August 17, 2003 (4:22 p.m.) 

> 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 www.cdjapan.com 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.

I have to congratulate you on an interesting and inviting look in to the world of video-game music, that has greatly increased in quality and quantity in the few years since being recognised as a major niche in the ever-expanding music market.

I have to though also, admit that speaking with the majority or readers, some of the games you have mentioned have never been heard of or have not been released in the UK (of which I am resident in) and thus we will not be able to listen to its music (of which you have described in such detail).

Hence the reason I suggest some widely known, more popular games that have hit consoles over the past few years:

PERFECT DARK(1999),(Nintendo 64) - For a game to be developed from GoldenEye - the engine that brought 1st Person Shooting to life is a major feat to achieve,PD has been internationally accepted as one of the greatest N64 games ever. In my opinion, the brilliance of its music captures the magic of each level from the game - considering that the console has so little capacity and credability anymore. The inspriring themes, such as 'Pelagic II' and 'Air Base II' reflect the brilliance of the game itself - with the music playing in the background (of which the player can manually select), the whole gaming experience is 10X better. Electronic it may be, but trash it is not.

METAL GEAR SOLID(1999)/ MGS2: Sons of Liberty(2002),(PC, Playstation 2) - A trully magnificent score. The one track - featured in the games opening clip marks the pinnacle in video-game scores...it can only get better. Lasting only 4 mintues in the second game, this track is beautifully constructed, magically composed and a delight to listen to. The nail-baiting, addictive 32-note tune marks the denouement of an exceptional game - and urges any gamer to keep on playing with patriotism and dignity. Download it from Kazaa, buy the game, just do anything to get your hands on that tune!!

SHADOW WATCH(2000),(PC) - For a game that was panned by critics from all over the world, one has to take time to listen to the highly addictive tune that repeats itself during the game. The engine - A breakdown of MGS, in a 'Japanese-esque' animated world of take-your-turn gameplay, though highly frustrating - is essentially rewarding due to the nature of the music..persuading the gamer to continue with an echo of patriotism in the background. No doubt the game would be hard to find today, but if successful - be prepared to be dazzled by the effective trumpets, bass and tymponies all working together to produce a mesmorising score.

THE SIMS(2001),(PC) - Just a little thought. The incredible piano playing only appears during the 'decorative' stage of the game - if the gamer is changing the wall-paper of the house, or introducing new furniture etc. The incredible music from this feature is an intelligent add-on to this highly popular game - the sweeping melodies and addictive themes from one talented pianist. Everybody who has played this game will agree with me - a highly impressive feature!

The original comments made by this person below are totally faultless - I have to agree with changing technology over the past years and hence the capabilities of the consoles - and the different genres of music one game can produce (depending on what it is about), but one can easily arrange their own compilations of the best video-game scores using simple MP3 programmes such as Kazaa/ Napster and many others, thus ignoring all the 'extra trash' of sloppy music from the games. This is easy, quick and higly rewarding. Believe me.

Thanks for reading these comments, with my regards for the origional reviewer and Filmtracks website.



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Neo Rasa
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(cache-rk01.proxy.aol.com)

  In Response to:
Ed Hodson
Re: Expanded points of film music   Tuesday, August 26, 2003 (1:03 p.m.) 

You're very much welcome, I'm very happy to see people taking an interest in this. You've made some great recommendations too, Perfect Dark was especially outstanding for an N64 game. Come to think of it all of Rare's games (Perfect Dark, Goldeneye, Starfox Adventures, Jet Force Gemini, etc.) have great music and the company itself is based in the UK so obtaining the games shouldn't be much of a problem (as sound track cds unfortunately were not made for all of their titles).

Now that you mention it in fact I recall playing Shadow Watch through to completion JUST because I enjoyed the score so much. My fetish for turn based strategy games no doubt helped but the sound track is definitely the highlight of the game. Best $3 I ever spent on a bargain bin purchase. The MGS theme I agree is an experience NO ONE should be without! I'm surprised I didn't think of it earlier as it's such a popular franchise these days. Great call. It's a shame it must be so difficult to obtain the actual sound track cds for many of these games in the UK. I'm a US resident myself but given the relatively minor prenetration game music has made into "real" music stores here I can't imagine how bad it must be there where many of the games won't even be released. One item UK residents shouldn't miss out on however is the Silent Hill games. Silent Hill 2 sold exceptionally well there, causing the sound track and other bits of it to get an official release there. Silent Hill 3 was even released in Europe FIRST, then in Japan, and finally here in the US just two weeks ago. A sound track CD is included with the game, fantastic horror sound track if you ask me.

I agree too that making your own cd compilations of these songs is definitely the way to go, especially when many of the songs will HAVE to be found via file sharing programs in the first place. I don't know what the policy is about discussing such things on this site but if people want some samples of the games I listed in my previous post I'll be on a much faster connection in the next few weeks so I'd be happy to send out a few.

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