I like to make it a point to cover video game music as often as I can. I really think the entire industry is on the cusp of breaking down what little barriers are left and establishing itself as a thoroughly acceptable artistic medium.
So when I was given the chance to take a listen to London Music Works’ Essential Games Music Collection Vol.1 I was excited. Usually compilations like these are reserved for film scores but the quality of video game music has risen so high this release isn’t just warrented, it’s way over due.
Of course with any release like this there will be a heavier reliance on the newer and more popular themes to sell the album. Luckily that works in this release’s favor, as the industries most recent and most popular stuff is what people should be hearing.
The album does still try to strike a balance between the new and the old, but with only 13 tracks to deal with there is going to be a lot of music left for volumes 2 and beyond. The descending order of most recent to oldest also makes for a very interesting listening experience, a devolution on the industry, if you will.
The tracks are all new records, as is standard with these releases, but as I have been discovering, that is not inherently bad these days. Especially considering the fact that older game themes were only ever originally recorded in 8 and 16 bits. The merging of overly simplified synth versions of classic tracks that dovetail into larger orchestral sounding pieces is one of the highlights of this album.
Another trend that would be amazing would be finding gems like the intro from Turrican II. I have spent a long time as both a video game professional and an avid film/game music fan, and I have never heard this amazing piece before.
I also generally appreciate their takes on the modern popular themes. Games like Uncharted and Assassin’s Creed have such a cinematic feel that their music is close to being a film score on its own. So while we are not hearing these tracks in an overly new way, the versions here are great facsimiles.
The set does suffer a small bit in one respect, the music of Final Fantasy VII. Now you have to understand this about me, Final Fantasy VII is the greatest game ever crafted in my humble opinion. I have listened to countless versions of nearly every theme in the game, over and over again.
So I hold these themes in very high regard. Obviously the people putting the album together must feel similarly, because the only game, to have multiple tracks is Final Fantasy VII. Heck there isn’t even two tracks from the same franchise other than that. So clearly there is some reverence.
Too bad the tracks are simply sub-par. I have heard better single-human, a-cappela versions than these. It should be pointed out that these are far from the worst versions of these themes too. Just very average, and unfortunately very disappointing. Especially in the light of the cool way they handled the Zelda and Mario main themes.
Three Favorite Tracks:
Modern Warfare 3 Theme by London Music Works - Man, this is a killer theme and a perfect way to start off this album. Anyone who puts this release on and expects to hear bleeps and bloops will be blown away by the rousing and epic first person shooter theme. This actually came a bit as a surprise to me because I don’t tend to get heavily involved with these types of games. If the themes are this great, I might be changing up that life preference.
Nate’s Theme (From Uncharted 2: Among Theives) by London Music Works - Are you feeling a hole in your heart left by the fourth Indiana Jones movie? Do yourself a favor and play the Uncharted franchise. One of the critical reasons the franchise works is the music. This main theme for Nate is as powerful as most action hero themes written in the last quarter century. This version of the theme is just wonderful, filled with all the appropriate epic grandeur that this track deserves.
Finish the Fight (From Halo 3) by London Music Works - Anyone that knows me, knows I am a PlayStation guy. Give me a Sony device over Nintendo and Microsoft every day of the week (Except on Sundays, that’s my 3DS time). So understand the magnitude when I decree a Halo track one of my favorites on the album. You can’t deny that the series has always had a keen sense for the dramatic, and the music was always a high water mark. This version works very well, and encapsulates everything I care to take away from Microsoft’s flagship franchise.
Least Favorite Track:
One Winged Angel (From Final Fantasy VII) by London Music Works - I am sorry, but after the Advent Children soundtrack I never care to hear this theme outside of a full and energetic orchestra. I don’t want the fine folks to think they messed up in anyway, the fault here lies in the choice to use this theme. If they choose a different theme from the game, say Aeris’ Theme, things would be different. Instead they picked the track that least translates back into a synth-y sound after a full orchestral version exists.
At the end of the day, this is an excellent collection. Well balanced, well delivered and hopefully this is the first of many volumes. Just learn from your one mistake London Music Works, if you choose to use music from Final Fantasy VII, get better selections that work for you. I am very pleased video game music is making that next step into the main stream.
Final Score for The Essential Games Music Collection Vol. 1
4.5 out of 5