Freedom is nothing but a chance to be better. ~Albert Camus
Question #93476 posted on 03/03/2021 7:08 p.m.

Dear 9S,

Your recent spotify question shows that you listen to lots of video game music (like me!). [For those reading disapprovingly, please consider that video game and movie music is directly analogous to opera not very long ago. It's a relevant arena of music composition that is both beautiful and innovative.] I'm currently really getting into the music of Darren Korb (who did music for the games Bastion, Transistor, and Hades) as well as some fine NES and SNES soundtracks (FF, Chrono Trigger, MegaMan, etc). What are you listening to that I should definitely check out?



Dear Archetype,

Welcome to the club! There are dozens of us! Dozens!

I'm not personally familiar with the good Mr. Korb's work, although I have a passing familiarity with Hades. My music playlist tends to follow my video game patterns; in the months before my mission I spent an awful lot of time listening to music from RuneScape 3 and Pokémon, and these days I typically listen to NieR or Final Fantasy soundtracks. Sometimes my playing habits inform it; it was actually some preliminary sampling of the NieR Automata soundtrack that convinced me to take a chance on the game when I first got home from my mission.

It's also a question of preference, since some people can't stand the MIDI soundfonts of yore. I had one mission companion whose music taste was dominated by NES and SNES games, and another who really didn't like the electronic sound at all and preferred modern games with energetic, guitar-heavy soundtracks, like Bravely Default, or Atlus games like Etrian Odyssey. I don't mind retro or modern styles--although personally, I really don't like rock or metal in my video game soundtracks, on balance. I think soundtracks that forgo non-acoustic guitars tend to sound more interesting musically. With that said, I'll try to pick out some highlights for you. I've amassed a pretty good number of sources for atmospheric and high-energy pieces to use while conducting D&D sessions.

Currently I'm spending a lot of time listening to the Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack. Not so coincidentally, I've spent a lot of my socially-distanced time there lately. MMO soundtracks in particular are interesting to me because they cover such a wide range of styles. On one hand, you've got calm, relaxing background themes like "Sultana Dreaming," the nighttime theme in the city of Ul'dah. Then you've got your standard RPG battle music in battle & boss themes like "Tenacity" or "Ultima", and then you have music which throws conventional RPG orchestration pretty much out the window; "Beauty's Wicked Wiles" is a lyrical piece with a strong Sino-Indian flavor, while "Under the Weight" sounds like something you'd hear in a mosh pit. 

I digress. If you like Final Fantasy soundtracks, it's well worth a listen. The vast majority of it is available on Spotify, minus the music from the Shadowbringers expansion onward. It's a shame, since Shadowbringers also has some of the best music, but it's easily available for listening on Youtube for the time being.

RuneScape deserves a shoutout for similar reasons. If, like me, you played RuneScape during its heyday in the mid-to-late 2000s, the Original Soundtrack Classics album is a trip right down memory lane, minus all the middle school awkwardness. You can also find new and original compositions, for both Old School RuneScape in 2007-era MIDI style and RuneScape 3 with mostly modern orchestration, on Spotify; some of my personal favorites include "The Maiden's Sorrow" from the Old School soundtrack for the Theatre of Blood and "Dragon Rider" from the RuneScape 3 soundtrack for the God Wars Dungeon. Unlike, say, Final Fantasy (which has original soundtracks for VII, X, XIII, and XV available on Spotify), RuneScape's prolific soundtrack is not widely available on Spotify outside of a handful of selections, at least not yet. Compared to the total drought it used to be years ago, though, where I frequently had to settle for Youtube uploads that combined the audio quality of a tin can with an obnoxiously loud and wholly unnecessary intro by Evanescence or Linkin Park, I'd say we have it pretty good.

I'm also legally obligated to mention that the soundtracks for both NieR and NieR: Automata are on Spotify. Keiichi Okabe's Monaca studio did a fantastic job scoring these games, and the vocals by Emi Evans and Nami Nakagawa are beautiful. It also has two piano arrangement albums, two remixed albums, and a cover album by Lizz Robinett that I also highly recommend--and that's just the stuff that's on Spotify. Suffice it to say I'm a big fan. I've previously gushed about the piano arrangement for Automata's "The Tower" in Board Question #93433, but NieR's "Song of the Ancients" is also a really strong contender for my favorite piano arrangement of all time.

Even if the original soundtrack for the game isn't on Spotify, remixes and remakes abound, many of which are actually quite good. If you haven't found them already, the Distant Worlds arrangements of iconic Final Fantasy themes are excellent. 

Speaking of remixes, if you haven't heard of this website already, you owe it to yourself to visit OverClocked Remix, a long-running community for fans of video game music. Remixes hosted on OCR are actually generally pretty substantial as opposed to the often simplistic approach that dominates the sorts of remixes you find on Youtube, and it's not uncommon for remixes to completely change genre, add original lyrics, or sample multiple songs at once. As an example, here's Final Fantasy VII's "J-E-N-O-V-A" turned into a solemn classical piano piece as well as a danceable trance beat. I recently stumbled upon a mix that combines NieR's "Song of the Ancients" and Ocarina of Time's "Gerudo Valley" into, as the description has it, a "hip-hop/chillout vocal arrangement with Latin components." There's all kinds of neat stuff here. And the best part is that it's all totally and completely free. Remixes posted to OCR are all original works available for download with no charges and no strings attached. It's a treasure trove.

Hopefully this is enough to get you started! Let me know how your search goes!




Dear Archetype,

I'm not 9S, but I will never miss a chance to plug the Journey soundtrack by Austin Wintory. Honestly one of my favorite works of art.