Retrograding Weekend News 08.02.03

Before I begin…Happy Birthday Mom! (I know, I’m such a kiss ass…)

It’s interesting that a few days after I announced this topic that a thread about this very subject appeared on the 411Games news board. And I found a lot of the choices very interesting. From the Super Mario Brothers theme to people liking Final Fantasy music (ugh). Although I didn’t really like ANY of the songs named in the thread, it was great to see that people other than me find the music for a video game to be an integral component of the fun!

Without music, there is only the noise of special effects. Punches, death cries, the sounds of lasers frying alien scum. And although these sounds and special effect noises are important to the game, it’s hard to really get into a game without some sort of music.

Video game companies and Hollywood know the same thing: Music sets the tone and mood where words can’t suffice. Dark ominous music means the evil psycho stalker killer is about to strike, and even if you’re not consciously listening to the music, your body instinctively tenses and knows what’s about to happen. Symphonic classical-esque music is synonymous with role playing video games now and an RPG with music that is dramatically different tends to surprise the hardened RPG fanatic.

Look at the demos that start most video games. Only in select games are the words. They allow the CGI/FMV to be sold by the MUSIC. Whether it is Megumi Hayashibara doing the opening track for Slayers Royal, or The incredible opening video to Lunar: Silver Star Story Complete, the best demo’s usually are some excellent computer graphics rivaled by the passion and energy released by the song that accompanies them.

Video game soundtrack buying is becoming more common here in America, still pretty unknown in England, but my god is it big business in Japan. I’ll admit it. I am a J-Pop addict. Slayers Sound Bibles, Love Hina, Fist of the North Star, Hellsing, Knights of Ramune, Vampire Princess Miyu, Cowboy bebop. These are all Anime soundtracks I own and enjoy. And it doesn’t stop just with those: I’ve got a decent collection of J-pop singers and I talk about it with my LJ friends in both communities and each other’s journals. Look in your CD collection. How many MOVIE soundtracks do you own? Ask yourself why? Is it really because of the songs, or did you buy it just because you liked the movie? Most often it’s because yes, you LIKED the music. It added to the movie. A good hard and fast song playing at the right time. A slow paced melancholy song that adds to the bitter sweetness during a sad or tender moment. Guess what? There’s NO difference between movie soundtracks and Video Game ones except that you might know the artists behind the movie ones.

People if you LOVE the game, see how much of that love would still be there without the music. Would Legend of Zelda be as great without the incredible music Nintendo had developed for it? Would Clock Tower make you say Oh shit no’ as much if it just didn’t have the very creepy Scissorsman music? Would Smackdown/WMXXI be as fun if they didn’t include the themes of HBK, Kevin Nash, Scott Hall, Hurricane, or HHH? (And yes, if X-Pac, Norton, and Credible still had theme music I’d include them as well.) Crotch chops all around baby!

Music is VERY important people. Not just in games, but for life. It’s a constant in day to day existence and manages to cheer us up or makes us nostalgic by just a few chords or a bass beat. If you really enjoy a video game, buy the damn soundtrack! Support the musicians that put just as much effort into their part of the game as the programmers and graphical artists. Who cares if it’s got bug-eyed noseless Anime characters on the cover? So what if some of your friends think it odd that you have a King of Fighters ’98 CD in your car. If you like the music, feel free to listen to it whenever you want. Why should you have to play a game for 20 hours just to get to that boss battle song you love so much? Buy the damned CD!

Included now is a list of my ten favorite soundtracks from video games. I won them all and am actually listening to the #3 slot while writing this. These are CD’s I need in my collection just as much as Sister of Mercy’s “Some Girls Wander By Mistake,”Bauhaus’ “Swing the Heartache: The BBC Collections”and GWAR’s “This Toilet Earth.”Not surprisingly, ALL are RPG’s or have major RPG characteristics to them. And although I’ve mentioned many of these games before, there are a few surprises in here.

Needless to say, I’m going to IMPLORE you to go out and buy some of these. Or rip the songs from Audiogalaxy, Kazaa, or whatever other file sharing program you have. However, if you do that and you like the music, still go out and buy the official CD. Support Artists people!

As well, I want to see your lists. I know they’ll be primarily be filled with the usual games I don’t have on: Final Fantasy games, Zelda games, Mega Man games, and the like. And that’s fine. Write me! Let me know what gaming songs you love. What ones you find yourself whistling at odd times or that you’ve ripped from one of your Saturn or PSX discs. So what if you really love Gray Grinning Ghost’ from Walt Disney Racing for the Sega Dreamcast. ADMIT IT! And if I get enough to do an entire mailbag column just on reader choices, then I might have to include a certain transcript members of THE KLIQ Saw earlier this week involving the insanity and total comedy that comes with Alex being single again. Or print some of Razor Ram…er Lee Baxley’s completely wasted nonsensical emails to the Elite secret society that runs 411games.

10. Castlevania: Symphony of the Night (PSX, Saturn)

And Alex starts his countdown with one of the best selling video game soundtracks in the US. And is deserves to be. SOTN is the best Castlevania game of all time, narrowly beating out 3 in my personal list. And although Konami and I have had some interesting legal issues in the past (involving the use of a certain character’s name who recently reappeared in a GBA game under a different name because someone other Konami owned and trademarked it. Also one of the reasons why Hellsing uses Arucard instead of…that name.) I still do enjoy the game that brought about these little issues. And especially the soundtrack.
There’s never been a bad Castlevania soundtrack, although there have been HORRIBLE Castlevania games. And Castlevania: SOTN is so good, it spawned TWO soundtracks. The first is of course the original music. A great disc of fast paced orchestral tunes that bring to mind a warrior blasting through a demonic castle filled with hideous and unspeakable amalgamations of terror so horrific that the mere attempt to visual what these denizens of Hades could possibly take the physical form of would send one’s mind into a state of insanity so profound only catatonia could possibly relieve their suffering.

Guess who is in the middle of working on a Cthulhu mythos Anthology?

But what’s really nice is the OTHER soundtrack. A complete set of remixed SOTN song set to a mix of techno-esque/dance/pop beats. In fact, you can even hear one of these for free if you own the PSX version of SOTN. Pop it into a CD player. Now as you should now, if you do this with MOST games, you’ll get that horrible ear splitting noise. Well, you WILL with SOTN if you play the first track. But the second one gives you a very spooky voice warning you not to play more the first track. And then BAM! It goes into a great redux of one of my favorite SOTN songs. A bit faster, a lot more electronic, and even better than the original. It’s the lead off song on my homemade Best of VG songs’ CD that I give to friends and it’s just a an excellent tune combining a more modern beat with some beautiful synth work and even a hint of strings. (I’m a sucker for the violin.)

I picked the remix CD up in Portland at a fair for 10$ in 2001 and have never regretted it. Pop the game disc in your computer or stereo system and give it a whirl. If you like what you hear, there’s even better shit on the soundtrack.

9. Pokemon (Game Boy, Game Boy Colour, Game Boy Advance)

Yeah, it’s well known I have a severe addiction to Pokemon. And the music is a big reason why. At least once a day I will catch myself humming or whistling the walking theme (Ba ba bum bum bum, Ba ba bum bum bum, ba ba bum bum bum bum-bum). That and singing “Pokemon Johto!”

They may be MIDI files, but I can’t get enough of the Pokemon music. It drives my friends crazy. I once managed to drive off the affection of a lady I wasn’t interested in by talking about Pokemon songs for an hour straight! Whether it is the battle music, the opening theme that appears in Coliseum, Blue, Red, and Green, the “lost in a spooky cave”song, or the excellent “credit rolling”song, the creators of this incredibly complex little game boy game. Pokemon tunes stick in my head easier than any music I’ve ever listened to. They’re simple, catchy, and full of energy. The always manage to make me smile and remind me of the trips I’ve taken to Osaka, NYC, and Tokyo, just to crush small children and teenagers in game link Pokemon battles.

See, sometimes it’s more than just the notes and harmony that make music enjoyable. Music can bring back faded memories to full vitality.

And although I DO recommend buying Pokemon CD’s, I have a feeling no one is going to actually take my advice there. Because it’s “Kiddie”or “Joshi”music. Sigh.

8. Legend of Mana (PSX)

Holy Shit! HOLY SHIT! ALEX PRAISES A SQUARESOFT GAME! The world is ending! There is no God! There is no God!

Not quite. I still think Final Fantasy and Chrono Cross are HIGHLY overrated. And that Square is tied neck and neck with Sega for Stupid Video Game business blunders.’ But I do enjoy some Square games like Threads of Fate, Chrono Trigger, and this little baby right here.

The Mana series is by far my favorite thing Square does. And although reviews on LoM are mixed, it’s my favorite Square game by far. And if you were smart enough to pre-order this game in 2k1 on US shores, you got a most excellent mini-soundtrack for the game as well.

Unlike Final Fantasy games that are third rate stories and below average play control cleverly disguised by some pretty good graphics and excellent marketing, Legend of Mana doesn’t hide what it is: A work of f*cking art that just happens to be playable. It boasts some of the most amazing 2D graphics ever seen on any video game system. It even takes a Square weakness, which is the inability to actually have a story that makes sense for less than 15 minutes before hit hits contradiction, poorly written dialogue, and is thus forced to steal huge plot points from other video games. So it’s just a bunch of cute mini stories. No real depth. No real hard hitting things that attempt to blow your mind but only make you laugh because hey, YOU’VE played Megaten games. Just cute little barely —connected mini tales that have some character development. A few stories actually combine to make a large story arc, but as there are several medium sized stories instead of one gigantic claptrap filled one, LoM manages to be the best written Square game ever. Albeit that’s not saying much”¦

But my god the music. I popped the free mini soundtrack in my car and was hooked by the time I got home. Unlike a lot of classical style music one finds with RPG’s, LoM is very much akin to Folk music or bardic style music. Most of the songs are very somber and inspire sadness. LoM is a sad melancholic game, and this theme runs through all the songs. The opening Demo song which is faster paced than most of the tunes in the game, but then when you start you get the ultra mellow Mana Goddess prologue theme.

Where most songs in RPG’s tend to try and get the heartbeat up and the toes a’tappin, Mana does the opposite. The songs are written to inspire calm or a slight depression. They are deliberately slow in contrast to the face pace of the battles and mini-storylines. The contrast makes the game all the more enjoyable.

Then comes the boss fight music which jars you due to the speed, decibel level and dark portent that ushers forth. It’s such a change from the rest of the somber easygoing music that you KNOW your character is in for a fight!

My favorite song has to be the music that comes with Capella and Diddle. Upbeat, and innocence pervades the entire tune.

Best of all is in LoM you can even create instruments. Songs are the source of magic in LoM and also can attract elemental spirits who will give you coins if they enjoy your songs enough. LoM is a game that is all about music. The importance of music flows through out the plots and style of the game. And so it only makes sense that it has one of the best VG soundtracks I’ve ever heard.

The mini soundtrack is pretty easy to find on Ebay and auction sights and won’t run you more than 5 bucks AT THE MOST. So go get it already!

7. LUNAR: Silver Star Story Complete (PSX, Saturn)

This is specifically in regards to the redone version that came out in 1999. Yes the Sega CD and GBA versions have incredible music associated with them as well, but this is the epitome of the Lunar games, both in terms of stories and music.

A few years back I did a little tiny article for Gamespot on the effect Lunar:SSS and SSSC had on the way music in video games was viewed. And even how Square tried glomming Working Designs idea to actually package a Video Game Soundtrack with the giant package they unleashed in the US (Silly Game Arts. Start doing the same in Japan!) and how they did the same with FF Anthology”¦and claimed it was their idea. Silly Square. No idea if it’s still up, but it was one of my first forays from folklore and papers into the realm of video game journalism.

So knowing this, or having read my review of LUNAR legends, I don’t need to tell you how passionate I am about Lunar music or the trilogy as a whole. Trilogy you ask? Why there’s Lunar: Magical School back in Japan. Go bitch to WD or Game Arts to bring it here!

L:SSSC’s music is so good, they even brought most of it (Including WD created music) to the GBA version. This is also the first soundtrack on the list where vocals start to play a big part in the music as well. Yes, SOTN has a vocal ending theme and Mana has one quasi-vocal song, but as the list goes on, you’ll see a lot more Singing becoming entwined with the musical scores.

Like LoM, L:SSSC is a game where music is an integral part of the story. The opening demo is beautiful in terms of graphics, but couldn’t be complete without the excellent vocal work that accompanies with it. The same holds true for the boat scene. Luna is a singer. Music is her passion. And if that scene had been done without lyrics and music, it wouldn’t have been even a hundredth as effective.

Music is not only a source of magic in the world of Lunar, but is also the power of the Goddess Althena as well. Luna’s magic abilities are powered completely by her voice, and when the Magic Emperor starts his sinister plan, her sets it in motion by kidnapping young singers. Lunar makes it abundantly clear that music in itself is a source of magic, the most likely only source in reality; unless you’re Otherkin, Wiccan, or you actual believe the Cthulhu Mythos is real.

This is a pretty easy soundtrack to pick up. Just go on ebay and BUY Lunar:SSSC. Sure it MAY cost you a crapload of money, but you’re buying one of the best video games ever made, getting an Otaku box and also an incredible soundtrack. Spend that money people! Unless you need food. Never let it be said Alex encourages anorexia in order to own Lunar. Well”¦maybe a little encouragement. Especially if you’re a fatty.

6. GUARDIAN HEROES (Saturn)

Can Alex go a week without praising Treasure, demeaning Square, or saying the word Cthulhu in one of his columns? Not bloody likely.

Yes. You all know I loves me that Guardian Heroes. There is nothing one CAN’T love about this game. Seriously, it’s by far the best Action RPG ever made. And like Valkyrie Profile, it blends story, music, gameplay and graphics into true perfection. Seriously, I could talk and talk and talk about this game for 20 straight pages. But I won’t. This day it’s about the music.

Guardian Heroes was the first soundtrack I ever bought. Well that’s not true. It was the first Saturn game I ever bought. And I would just stick my copy in my CD player as you could do that with most Saturn games. Not like those shitty PSX black discs. BOOO!

Guardian Heroes is one of those rare soundtracks you can listen to from beginning to end without ever wanting to turn it off. All the songs are fast paced, and fit the high action levels of the game PERFECTLY. The opening cartoon demo and it’s music will instantly addict you to the game like a wacky pimp on the street walking up to a hot chick and injected smack into her veins against her will, putting her into a life of heroine addiction and cheap sloppy blows jobs to get her fix.

Although some of the songs are slightly repetitive, each one manages to energize you and get excited for the next level of insane smashy-smashy combat. The frantic rhythms, the excellent 80’s style guitar work, and the sheer sense of FUN running through the music will infect you with not only love for the tunes in this game, but the actual game itself. It’s insane of every part of Guardian heroes combines to form a whole greater than the parts. It’s like the Voltron: Defender of the Universe of video games!

Now, like EVERYTHING Treasure puts out, this soundtrack is a bitch to track down. In all honesty, buy the Saturn game and pop it in your CD player and record the tracks onto your computer or burn them onto another CD. That way you buy the actual game and can make copies without whiny That’s not legal’ friends and family getting on your case.

5. DARK WIZARD (Sega CD)

Now this is probably a surprise to many of you. After all, it’s a pretty old game, an obscure game, and a Sega CD game, which means most of you reading this have never played it. BUT YOU’RE MISSING OUT!

Dark Wizard is a very, VERY long tactics style game. Maybe you’ve played something like Brigandine or Master of Monsters? You have a choice of four generals at the beginning of the game: A young Prince, a fierce warrior, a demonic sorceress, or an ancient vampire king. Guess who I first beat the game with, eh?

You buy, create, and command a literal army of troops and make them wage war throughout an entire continent. The graphics aren’t anything special, except the anime scenes, which were impressive for its day, blew away even the Sega CD version of Lunar. It was long, held dozens of hidden characters and spells and was the most intricate strategy game I’d ever when I had first purchased it. In order to truly beat the game, you had to liberate towns, find 4 hidden elemental gods, fight over 50 campaigns and defeat the immortal demon king on his home turf. Easily over 60 hours long and worth every second if you’re a wargamer. Who needs Games Workshop when you had that puppy. And it was far cheaper to boot.

Ah yes. The music. Each army had their own distinct music, The young prince’s theme had the best song I had ever heard in a video game up to that point. Loud and regal, the entire orchestra sounded like each and every instrument was a soldier marching of to war. The notes of the battle hymn leap from your scream and infuse you with their battelust and energize you with the passion put into the song. The Warrior Woman’s song was slower but stronger. It left you with less fanfare, but a harder beat as brass replaced strings. The Demon Witch had my least favorite of the themes, but it was no less a work of art. Gone was the sense of righteousness. The music took on an eerier and yet calmer feel. And Amon, the vampire king? His music was downright evil. You were leading the army into darkness and every time it was your turn, the music never let you forget the path you chose.

This soundtrack was just incredible. For a long time I just took the Sega CD disc and put it in my car’s CD player when I was a teenager. I know, most people in the early 90’s were listening to Nirvana and Naughty by Nature? Me? I had my Dark Wizard disc, Floodland by Sisters of Mercy, and Bauhaus’ “She’s In Parties”on constant interchange. Fuck the system baby!

Truth be told. I do NOT know where you’d find one of these. This is definitely a soundtrack you’d have to rip from the disc itself and as I’ve never given this game up, I can’t tell you how much it runs on Ebay. I’m sure not much though. Only Working Design games seem to be expensive when we talk about old Sega CD games.

4. THOUSAND ARMS (PSX)

RED COMPANY!!!!

Now, I know a lot of people think I’m an Atlus whore. I know a lot of people think Treasure is on my pagan altar next to Nyarlathotep. I know people think I probably wipe my ass with copies of FFVII. But no one ever seems to catch on my passion for this Hudson twisted sibling. The makers of two of the best RPG’s of all time: Thousand Arms”¦and Sakura Taisen. AH! Now we see why I love these guys, don’t we?

I love this game. Like most RC games it’s part RPG, part dating sim, part Oddball hero saves the world and gets a girl at the same time.’ The plot is excellent, the graphics are superb and the voice work. In both the US and Japan, Red Company (in Japan) and Atlus (USA) spent some major bucks getting the top of the line voice actors to do this game. My personal favorite? Xellos from Slayers Next and Try doing the voice of Bandiger.

If you have never played a Red Company game, stop reading this and run out and buy this baby. It’s as close to Sakura Wars as you will get in English until the PS2 version is (finally) localized. It’s an RPG unlike any other. You have your normal turned based random battles (only complaint!), but you also get dating sim aspects, a nifty sticker club, some hidden characters, and hands down the best voice acting ever in a video game. Fuck Metal Gear Solid people, THIS is incredible. There’s over 20 hours of dialogue in this game. It’s funny, sad at times, but mainly just a great escape into a steampunk fantasy world. Hmmm. What is it about Red Company and Steampunk, eh?

Okay, this is about soundtracks. When I finish the History of Shining Force and go into the history of Red Company, THEN I’ll get to slobber over this game. But for now, it’s about the music.

Here we have a very eclectic soundtrack. We get some modern J-Pop, some weird glam metal, some of the typical orchestral music found in all RPG games, and even some technopop which those wacky Orientals seem to enjoy.

Each song is distinct from the last, and the soundtrack does tend to be a bit jarring to those who haven’t played the game and the CD is their first exposure to the game. Still, there’s not a single song on the game that isn’t worth sitting through.

My personal favorite song on the soundtrack is “Another Girl”which is also the theme for the entire game. It’s got some excellent guitar work that almost infringes on being cheesy. The drum and bass beats blend perfectly into one another and keep the song moving at a very fast pace when the guitar is absent. What’s most interesting is the main singer’s voice. She’s full of passion but it soft, slow, and deliberate, quite the opposite of the music. Instead of clashing and ruining the song, somehow the two blend quite well and the contrast makes the overall package enticing.

The music of Thousand Arms is a perfect metaphor for the games Red company makes. They take what would appear to be clashing styles (Fantasy RPG + Steampunk +Dating Sim) and merge them into a fantastic experience no other video game company could pull off. If you have never played a Red Company game, don’t make me come to your house and kidnaps your pets in a last ditch effort to get you to try my personal favorite Video game company of all time: Import a Sakura Wars game, or buy Thousand Arms. And then thank Atlus for bringing it to the US.

As for getting the soundtrack, if you bought the TA in stores, you received a coupon to send away for the soundtrack. Other than that I’m not sure how to get it. However, eBay I’m sure will have copies popping up from time to time. As it was mail order only, it probably will be a touch more expensive than the average VG soundtrack. But fear not gentle readers. It’s also a multimedia interactive disc, complete with screensavers, desktop themes and more! On my old desktop I had the Thousand Arms desktop theme and screensaver running when ever I got sick of Unicron or Slayers Next.

3. Rhapsody (PSX)

Okay. Half of me wants to get into the entire Puppet Princess series of games. And how they are NOT Joshi (Geared solely for a female audience.) Rhapsody is one of the few games an ex of mine really enjoyed however. But it’s also the best under 20 hours RPG I have ever played. And it’s a MUSICAL! A MUSICAL people!

I remember when I did my Top Ten RPG Franchises of All Time,’ one of the readers wrote me and asked why this wasn’t on it. And the answer was simply I had not played all of the La Pucelle series of games, and thus couldn’t with a good conscience put it on the list. (And yes I own all the Shin Megami/Persona/Megaten line of games because I’m a scary nut.) However I did say I was a huge fan of his and Marl’s Kingdom, which i had played at the time and wanted there to be some way to praise these games. So of course I printed his letter. ;-) And now I have a reason to set upon my demographic of late teen to mid 20’s males a game where you play a Princess with the power to animate and talk to puppets which overly adorable (and big breasted) characters and also an appearance by Todd McFarlane’s Spawn.

And I know, I have mentioned a few times before. But I love this game so much! And again have to thank Atlus for bringing it to the States…

And the great thing is that not only does the US translation have an all English soundtrack, but you can also play the game with the original Japanese music and lyrics. Now tell me that’s not cool! So for those elitist poseur gamers who swear English translations suck, but they still have to use an FAQ to even remotely understand the game in the original language, Rhapsody was made for you. The special unique parts of this game can still be in Japanese, while there’s enough English for you to understand the game! Everyone wins!

Personally? I much prefer the US version of the songs. The voices are far more animate and amusing. And the lyrics? Oh god the lyrics make me crack up every time. The Japanese singers…just leave me cold. It’s like Slayers in Japanese vs. English. Megumi Hayashibara is one of my favorite singers, but compared to her voice actress counterpart in the US (Lisa Ortiz), she needs to stick to singing. And I think Lee Hey Yo’ Baxley may have a bone to pick with me on that…

Where’s Bryan Berg? You know he’s that darn great! And he loves playing the GAME!

What’s interesting is that an ex would take the soundtrack for this game with her in car rides and on business trips. She loved it even more than I did. When we broke up, I bought her a copy of this game JUST for the soundtrack. And she doesn’t own a PSX. And never will. She likes the Big N. But I lost count of the times I heard the entire soundtrack all the way through.

Now. Back to the music. As you can imagine, when the game is named RHAPSODY and the subtitle is A Musical Adventure’ you’d have to be pretty daft to not realize how important music is going to be to this game. From the fact your main character (Cornet) plays her musical instrument to power up her puppet pal (Not TV puppet pals though..) to the fact characters will break into song on wacky occasion just like in a play musical, this game is loaded with happy, silly, also Muppet-esque songs. And as the game is only 10-12 hours long, it’s very much a constant. And the non cast songs are great too. The orchestral usual RPG music is nothing to sneeze at, but it’s still overshadowed by the wonderful songs sung by Cornet and friends.

My personal favorite is Marjoly’s (The evil senile seductress main bad chick) song. It’s got a great orchestra, the lyrics are silly as hell but still fit the game and the character perfectly. And Marjoly’s got a great set of….lungs. LUNGS! God you perverts, this is about singing…

“Marjoly/you’re the evil beauty/we bow down to you eternally”How great is that? Honestly! How can that set of lyrics right there not just make you snicker?

The game really is for all ages. Yes it looks and sometimes feels like it’s A Preteenage Girl’s First RPG’ but there are so many adult jokes and themes running through the game, everyone can enjoy it. So don’t be a macho idiot and think that faeries and puppets and bunny rabbits always have to be just for girls. Suck it up and play this game. You’ll find your self rather enjoying it before you know it.

2: Sakura Taisen (Saturn, DC, PS2)

Well, DUH. You thought this game wouldn’t be on the list? It’s Sakura Wars baby! I’m a raving fanatic for this series. And the music is a huge reason as to why.

When I first imported this for the Saturn, I ended up watching the demo FIVE time in a row before actually playing the game. Not only because I was blown away by the animation, but I was hooked on the title song from the start. It’s fast, upbeat, catchy, and totally adorable. From the opening blast of brass at the onset of the song to the duel between said instruments and their stringed opponents, to the exceptionally wonder female singer’s voice, the entire opening track for Sakura Taisen blows my mind. It includes everything from J-pop style guitar work to a full orchestra. It’s the kind of song we’d never see in the US or UK, and it harmonizes so perfectly, I can’t imagine a better pop song out there. Of course, most of the bands I listen to wear nothing but black and may be fast paced, but sure won’t attract the same legion of fans that go towards Ms. Spears and Mr. Timberlake. So when it comes to pop music guruism, look elsewhere people!

And the rest of the soundtrack fits the game perfectly. Early 20th century steampunk Japan where big robots fight evil interdimensional demons. Seriously. The music portrays that very well. In scenes at base’ (actually a theatre), music tends to be calmer, plodding, and serene. It fits the atmosphere of a playhouse. While the battles are”¦intense.

Sakura Wars definitely has the best soundtrack out of any Sega game, with Shining Force 3 following right behind. It’s easily something one can enjoy without every having played the game, especially if you enjoy J-pop, or video game soundtracks. You don’t need to know Japanese either. It’s just a great, wonderful soundtrack to the best franchise on the planet.

However, one game beats even that”¦.

1. Persona 2: Eternal Punishment

Yes, the continual rival for my affections from Sakura Wars. In this category Persona wins hands down however. Not only does this series (and I’ll include the Shin Megami Line as well) contain some of the most bizarre and entertaining music I have ever heard, P2:EP by far takes what we find in the two previous Persona games and improves them utterly.

EVERY song is a masterpiece. It truly is. From the insanity of the store music, to the incredible background music against Nyarlathotep himself, Persona’s music is something that must be experienced to truly savor its greatness. Much like the story. If there is anyone reading this that hasn’t picked up P2, I demand you explain your reasons why! And Lee, losing the EWR contest is NOT a good enough excuse.

The music ranges from ultra dramatic, to just insane. Listen to the cybercafe tune, then go into the Seven Sisters School Dungeon. Look how different the tracks are. Or the Police Station compared to Maya’s office. There is NO repetition here people. Each song is as individual as can be.

But what’s more, my favorite song of all time comes from this game. Yes, better than “Temple of Love.”It’s that good. So good I would play the game and walk into THE VELVET ROOM and leave my team there while working just to hear the song.

My god, I could write an entire article JUST on the Velvet Room operetta. It sends chills down my spine every time I hear it, and if there was only one song left on earth, I would pray that this would be the continual track.

It’s starts with some of the most exquisite piano playing I have ever heard. Slow and deliberate, each notes holds it’s own in a symphonic battle royale. Then slowly, each of the other instruments begins to play, but they do not take away from the piano. Instead the surround and bolster the tickling of the ivory, and then”¦the other instruments disappear as quickly as they came, leaving the piano to play on. And play it does. Some unknown man or woman’s fingers winding their way around the keys ushering out a hypnotic melody. And then the piano too begins to slowly back off, subtly growing softer until you notice it’s music is dying off like a Phoenix to the let new sound be heard.

And hear her we do. I wish I knew who did the aria for the Velvet Room Operetta, because I would send her fan mail and gifts a plenty. It’s that incredible. And I’m by no means an opera kind of guy. There are no words. No syllables. Just notes. Just one woman’s voice bursting from your speakers in some sort of tragic beauty that can be understood even though no language is spoken.. It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever heard.

As her voice grows, so does the piano and the returning other instruments. The end result is a cacophony of noise so incredible, you can honestly believe this is the work of some alien creature we can’t possibly begin to conceive of.

And then her singing dies off, leaving the lone piano again speak, leaving us with a longing for her voice, much in the same way Grecian legends speak of longing for a Siren. The piano is still beautiful, but it is alone. And it appears to feel the same sadness we do, as it too slowly dies out, this time forever, playing it’s last few stronger and sharper than ever before, allowing each to resonate completely on it’s own and weave it’s way into your ears before pressing onto another. It’s like a lovers final kiss to his departed. So elegant. So beautiful. And so sad.

The song lasts a hair under six minutes. Yet it appears to go by in seconds. I love it. I listen to it every day, and can’t imagine any work of music to affect me in a more passionate way. But then I am a Cthulhu obsessed spookykid, right?

Please people, go onto Ebay. Eight now. Buy this soundtrack. Just for this one lone song. Buy the video game to truly understand how an electronic piece of art can be just as powerful story wise as a novel. It should be a crime to own a PSX and not own either or the Persona games in English. Of course it should have been a crime for Atlus to not include the Snow Queen Quest in the US version of R:P, but that’s another long rant.

And after 13 pages of me talking about music, maybe you guys should go listen to some? Me, I’m going to finish up my EWR 4.0 game (Bret Hart vs Ultimo Dragon for the Toryumon World Title at the this month’s PPV!) and I’ve already got the Guardian Heroes soundtrack loaded in the stereo for background noise!

Where’s Bryan Berg? You should all go find his column and read that too. He is just that incredible. Wait…sorry. Charles Platt is incredible. Berg is that damn good