While not considered as critical as story and battle system, music is an aspect of RPGs that can really give RPGs that something extra. Debates over favorite composers and which game has the best soundtracks have been going on forever, so like it or not music is the soul of the RPG genre. This year there were quite a few solid candidates for best music, but who hit #1?
Offering one of the most varied soundtracks of the year, Shin Megami Tensei: Persona lands at the top of the charts for 2009. This title takes music from the original PlayStation release and turns it completely on its head, changing all but two songs from the initial release. SMT composer Shoji Meguro also took the directorial reins on this title, but it's his music that left the biggest impact on RPGamers.
The upbeat vocals of "Bloody Destiny" make this track one of the most memorable of the collection. Spooky tracks such as "ICU Panic," "Alaya Cavern," "Frozen St. Hermelin," "Sea of Consciousness," "Mad Hospital," and "Queen Asura's Descent" all set the tone for a mysterious adventure. Some of the other standout pieces are "Kama Palace," "Night Queen," and "Hypnos Tower" and each does a great job of really pulling gamers into the atmosphere of Persona. With such a quality soundtrack, thanks are due to Atlus for providing this collection to gamers who picked the game up at retail stores.
The question has always stood: why do video game makers keep paying mediocre composers to write new music instead of taking advantage of centuries' worth of excellent classical scores? Little King's Story breaks from the norm by doing just that, featuring reorchestrated, beautiful classical music throughout the game, always in fitting or humorous ways. When a specific, quirky mood is desired, newly written music blends in perfectly with the recognizable pieces. Rather than feeling tacked on, the spectacular music here augments the experience, sets the mood, and sounds wonderful. A game that smartly uses sound as a strength, Little King's Story's makers understand that synth-rock is actually not appropriate for all situations, and it makes for one of the most unmutable games ever created due to how it adds to the setting and atmosphere. Barely edged out of the number one spot by some of Meguro's best work, we confidently give Little King's Story the number two position here.
One of the only Shin Megami Tensei game soundtracks not to be composed by Shoji Meguro, Shin Megami Tensei: Devil Survivor's composer Takami Asano seemed to love heavy guitar licks. In fact, Devil Survivor has a very strong soundtrack, regardless of whether or not you were a huge fan of the game. Tracks such as "Deep Night" provide a strong sense of survival, while "Coldheartedness" evokes a feeling of urgency. Even the game's opening theme song "Reset" showcases an aggressive sound to get the player pumped for action. When Tokyo's under a lock down and the object is to survive, some aggressive, heart pounding music may be just the thing to get your blood pumping. Oh and guitar licks. Lots of 'em.
by Glenn Wilson, Michael Cunningham, Sam Marchello