This year in music, RPGamers were treated to a hauntingly beautiful new soundtrack, a great reimagining of an old OST, and a collection of classic songs from over fifty years ago. Music tastes are always quite varied from person to person, and this year's winners really showed that variation. So whether you want to listen to a breathtaking instrumental piece or sway to Dean Martin, 2010 had options.
Sweeping strings and booming brasswinds play second fiddle to the human voice in Nier's breathtaking soundtrack. Epitomizing music's ability to express what is beyond words, the composers employ (mostly) gibberish to take us on one of the most exhilarating acoustic rides in recent memory. Nier's soundtrack excels in that it has a fine balance of tracks — from melancholic, guitar-driven arias to adrenaline-pumping, percussion-heavy choral masterpieces to laid-back, ambient pieces. There are no "filler tracks" in this album. Each and every piece is salient, even the multitudes of arrangements scattered across the two-disc compilation. Though featuring near-identical melodic lines, the varied instrumentations and the changes in tempo and progression give each of the "versions" a distinct flavor.
As mentioned above, Nier's soundtrack is heavily focused on vocals. Freesscape artist Emi Evans provides much of the solo work and delivers a laudable performance, giving each piece such warmth and character. The nonsensical lyrics roll of her tongue with such finesse and eloquence that it is easy to be fooled into believing that it truly is an existing language — one that sounds vaguely like a mix of Japonic, Tai-Kadai, Germanic, and Romance. Standout voice-driven tracks include the riveting "Hills of Radiant Wind," the heart-pounding "The Dark Colossus Destroys All," both versions of "Kaine and Emil," and of course, the mesmerizing "Song of the Ancients."
The album also includes instrumental pieces, and they are no less impressive. Tender melodies usually typify these pieces. "Hills of Radiant Winds's" ambient counterpart, "City of Commerce," is perhaps one of the most noteworthy of the bunch. "City of Commerce" actually features a faint chorus, but it is merely supplementary, and as such it was not included in the previous group. All in all, Nier's soundtrack is truly a marvel and it features some of the best music ever composed for a video game, period. Fans of vocal music (and fans of good music in general) shouldn't pass on this divine auditory experience.
Noriyuki Iwadare's work in the Lunar series is iconic. The series is known for its strong musical elements, and hearing his music redone for the remake is a reminder of how memorable the story of Lunar truly is. The revised lyrics of "Wind Nocturne" are stunning, giving the song much more cohesion than the original Working Designs version. Songs such as "Battle of Light and Shadow" exude so much more strength, creating a more haunting melody with the inclusion of Luna's voice. Songs such as "Burg" and "The Magic City" are tracks that players can easily hum along to. Lunar's soundtrack showcases a wide range of emotions that make players feel a part of the game's world and story. Iwadare's music has managed to stand the test of time, and continues to make RPGamers, veterans and newcomers, fall in love with Lunar over and over again.
While it has some big shoes to fill when compared to the track list from Fallout 3, the music from Fallout: New Vegas is still the tops, baby! While the original musical compositions are decent enough, the highlights are the classic songs from the era. With a setting like Vegas, music would have to be a big part and it is. Many catchy tunes fill the New Vegas Radio airwaves from Dean Martin's "Ain't That a Kick in the Head?" to Bing Crosby's "Something's Gotta Give." The music is fun and fits amazingly well in the game, as it stands in stark contrast to the ruined landscape of New Vegas. While not every song will be a hit, there are enough to keep players humming them long after putting the controller down.
by Francis Gayon, Michael Cunningham, Sam Marchello