I often think gamers and critics alike don't give music enough weight or consideration. The interactive entertainment industry requires fantastic soundtracks for the sake of immersion; great music enhances the experience in a subtle yet crucial way.

And while so many great titles have offered amazing soundtracks, I still think the single greatest music assortment was found in Castlevania: Symphony of the Night . One could argue we've long since advanced and can now implement full orchestral pieces (with no electronic synth help), and popular music is becoming a bigger and bigger staple, but we have to examine this from a bird's-eye view. Hardware limitations shouldn't be a factor.

We have to examine it strictly from a musical standpoint. Is the selection diverse? Are there enough various tracks to suit all gameplay situations? Is it well balanced or do the sound effects and/or voices override the music? Does part of our brain routinely take time out to actually listen to the soundtrack as we play? SotN succeeds on all fronts. There's a surprising assortment of tracks and it's incredible how many can be classified as memorable. I remember the majority to this day.

I think it's the only game soundtrack I've heard that tackles every emotion in the human rainbow. There are pieces for fear, rage, mystery, sorrow, and even awe. Each composition is beautifully arranged and presented. In all honesty, even after all the wonderfully accomplished soundtracks we've had since, SotN is the only game I replay again and again because the music is just so captivating. The gameplay is awesome, too, of course, and the design is almost unparalleled, but the music is the main draw.

How many games can we say that about?

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JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

I respectfully disagree. MGS or Halo have the best soundtrack. I absolutely loved the soundtracks of both MGS 2 and HALO: ODST. However for a theme song of a series.. I would give the award to MGS for certain… I get chills every time I hear it. It's incredible.

You do bring up a very interesting point Ben. I have always valued the music of a game, sometimes more than any visuals or game play mechanics. It's a category of the games we enjoy, but as you have pointed out… it's largely over looked… and it's sad.


Last edited by JMO_INDY on 8/12/2011 9:41:26 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Halo? …you've gotta be kidding me. Maybe the most repetitive set of music I've ever heard.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Halo is effective at least.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Yeah, it's effective at times. And I liked the epic nature of it.

But it just wasn't varied enough and I've been hearing one main track for three full installments now.

Excelsior1
Excelsior1
9 years ago

i gotta agree jmo

mgs1, and mgs2 soundtrack give me chills as well. halo's soundtrack is very good, too. i thought ff13's music was great as well. ff10 deserves some mention, too.


Last edited by Excelsior1 on 8/13/2011 12:15:42 AM

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

I LOVED ODST's soundtrack. The Rain and Never Forget tracks were beautiful. Very Noire-esque.


Last edited by JMO_INDY on 8/13/2011 12:33:01 AM

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

You have -GOT- to be kidding about Halo…

FFXIII is no better Excelsior. Both games have the EXACT same song with different tempos to fit the mood!

I remember when reaching Gran Pulse, and getting to a particular section and thinking, "HOLY CRAP! A different song!"

My favorite soundtrack is Dragon Quest 8. Music is a huge feature for me in games. I'm the only person I know who actively seeks out orchestral and symphonic versions of song I like from video games.

But my favorite is Dragon Quest 8 (in full symphony). It's diverse, and it's full of emotion.

You have to give a shout out to Nobuo Uematsu for his work on the FF games, though. He is very diverse in his writing. Probably the first battle theme in any game I've ever heard that didn't stick to a strict 4/4 time signature. (From what I can tell, FFVIII's battle theme is probably written in 10/8) Additionally, his writing spans across various styles and keynotes various instruments and different times.

But yeah… DQ8 ftw. There's so much going on in that music. Often you hear counter melodies and counter harmonies. Instruments not used in either harmonies or melodies do wonderfully to accent the right parts and and fill in the music with more breadth. "Heavenly Flight" isn't the best written song in the game, in my opinion, but it is definitely filled with the most emotion.

I'm sorry, but Halo's song follows a -very- strict path and does very little from beginning to end, and is broken up so badly, it might as well have been written with various movements.

I've only played and beaten ODST once. The music didn't jump out at me at any point, and I have no memory of what it was like. So it's hard to comment, yet at the same time, that in and of itself is a bit of a commentary.


Last edited by Underdog15 on 8/13/2011 12:46:42 AM

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

OOPS!!! Sorry for having an opinion. You have -GOT- to be kidding about choosing Coke over Pepsi.

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

See that's just the problem… you weren't LISTENING to it. Go on Spotify or Youtube for that matter and listen to them as music (an individual track) and not as a corresponding tune to a level in HALO.

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

I just believe that because you -enjoy- a particular song, does not make it fantastic music. I fully believe music can be enjoyed in a subjective matter, but it's incredibly mathematical. (Just ask Beethoven who couldn't even hear the works he wrote later on in his life) For that reason, it's 100% acceptable to analyze it objectively. And when I do that, Halo is just extremely average.

It's like any book. Big book people might be very particular about their books. Some will only read and enjoy true classical literature. Yet, my little sister might think Twilight or The DaVinci Code is the greatest literary work ever made, for the sole reason, that she just -really- liked it. Some people really like Romance novels. That doesn't mean it's good.

In the same way, all forms of music are enjoyed by people. Most of all by the ones who write them. But from an objective standpoint, there is a stark contrast between a well written work of art, and one that merely effectively establishes mood. Halo is mood music. It is not some well written piece of art that people will pay big money to go sit down and listen to. In the setting of the game Halo, it effectively establishes it's mood. Nothing more. It is good, maybe, but only for what it is. It is not a well written piece of music that is full of diversity.

I love Darude's Sandstorm, but come on… that's anything but musical genius.

As for not listening… I had the volume on. It did nothing to force me to be entranced by all the different things going on in it. It merely fit the mood. Nothing more.


Last edited by Underdog15 on 8/13/2011 1:04:49 AM

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

You said the same thing in all three paragraphs. It's great music, it's done well. Go back and take a listen like I suggested while not playing the game, in context to a drab and boring game like HALO the music might have sounded a bit boring and dull as well. But as a standalone piece of art… it is a great soundtrack with Never Forget and Rain being shining examples.

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

I said the same thing with different examples, because in my experience, when talking about art like this, people here are completely driven strictly by emotion and subjectivity. It would be great to hear objective remarks about the music itself.

I'm going to go listen to those songs you listed. brb

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

Thank you, that is all that I asked.

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

I'm writing as I listen:

Never Forget:
It starts off with the exact same Halo theme, but with slow strings. (Something done merely for effect. Moody)

Transitions to adding instruments and I'm willing to bet soon there will be some brass.

YUP! lol there it is. Textbook.

Now I'm listening to some piano. It isn't doing much. (Did I just hear some Titanic in there?)

Ok… seriously… slow strings again to the tune of HALO. And the piano is only doing 3-note arpeggios as a harmony.

Ok it's over. It's very pretty, to be sure. But there's very little to it. There is 1 melody (the usual Halo theme). Most of the substance is what's called a "Bridged Harmony". Most of the time, it's used in modern symphonic pieces to assist in a transition from one movement to the other. In this instance, it's the majority of the song.

I don't discredit how nice the chords are, but it follows a very distinct pattern you might learn to use in the first year or two of studying music. And that recipe for slow music is: 3 groups of 3. In other words, for sad music, you might have a grouping of 3 major chords, then 3 chords with at least one minor, and the last three would be your resolution. It's pretty, but it's what is used very commonly in stage plays and movies. It's wonderful… mood music. I can 100% see someone getting caught up in the moment to this music, absolutely. But it isn't an exceptional work of art. From a subjective standpoint, no one would look at you funny for loving it. For what it is, it's good.

I'll post again in a second. I'm off to listen to the second song.

brb


Last edited by Underdog15 on 8/13/2011 1:20:17 AM

JMO_INDY
JMO_INDY
9 years ago

I love the Ambiance of the two. They aren't overbearing which is great. Rain for sure beats out Never Forget. The feeling is very Noire-esque it gives a bit of a spooky something is wrong here feeling. It's just very mysterious. I see nothing wrong with them as works of art, the saxophone is a great touch as well. I have them both in my "Sleep/Ambient" Playlist on Spotify for a reason, along with the likes of Boards Of Canada, Port Blue, Windsor Airlift, and etc.

Excelsior1
Excelsior1
9 years ago

@undersog

they are not the exact same songs in ff13. some might feel the same to you but the only repeat music in ff13 is the chocobo variation theme. even it was different enough that it did not credit the original chocobo theme composer in ff13's official soundtrack. it probably should have though.

i liked both sound tracks. there were a couple of songs if ff13 that makes me rate it a little higher. that's just me though.

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

Ok next song… Gonna write as I listen again:

Rain:
I like the mystical approach so far.

Ah, now this part is starting to get somewhere. You hear how the strings have the undertone? It isn't harmony or counter melody. It's that "extra" addition I was talking about that "fills" up a song.

OH NO! No no no no! Don't stop! It was beginning to build beautifully! Now it's fallen off! UGH!

Over.
It had a lovely melody. I actually very much enjoyed it. But I won't lie… I wanted more from it. Don't you feel like you want more out of it? It's got such a great foundation with 1 or 2 well done elements. But then it dies off. I dunno… I just wish it went somewhere.

In and of itself from an objective standpoint, it's rather basic and lives within a very safe range. It's too bad this song doesn't attempt to branch out. It actually gives me the impression of a composer who is very talented, but is just starting out. It at least feels like it was done by someone who might have been in a few decent productions in their life.

As I was saying, the melody didn't go anywhere, unfortunately. It was very nice, but it was so safe. As a whole package, it doesn't add much. There wasn't much in the way of harmony. The strings as supporting fill were a wonderful touch, absolutely, but they were unfortunately the only touch.

In the end, it's another great song for mood. I feel a little cheated, though, as this song had tons of potential to really go somewhere. It definitely had a couple great elements, but overall it's lacking. It would more than serve as mood music, but it isn't quite complete. (I hope the composer returns to it someday)

Well, we have two songs here that are very pretty and very dark. Setting the stage for the story very well. They would more than likely bolster the experience as opposed hurt it. But I just can't bring myself to admit they are well written (Objectively, again.) As I said in the last post, subjectively… do you love it or hate it? I certainly wouldn't think you're crazy for loving it.

But compared to something like Dragon Quest 8, it isn't as complete.

To see what I mean, listen to the following songs. And really listen for what instruments are doing as fill, like the strings in Rain do. See how many different ones you hear, and how many different things are going on.

Alot of the greatest songs written have the same melody regularly. (Rhapsody Blues or most anything by Bach, for example) But it's those extra things that make it wonderful. Because those composers realize that melody isn't the single most important part!

Here are my suggestions:

Heavenly Flight (At 0:28, you will hear the strings with a distinct melody, and the brass with a second melody (counter melody, note how different it is from harmony). Listen to transitions at 0:58 and 1:14 and 1:28.)

Memories of an Ancient Ocean (just a really diverse song with many musical elements throughout)

Strange World (Nothing fancy. But a simple world map theme that has still managed to be extremely full with many elements. Well worth a listen)

(Make sure you listen to the "Symphonic" versions. The non-symphonic was the JAP version. We NA folks got the true blue symphony on the disc!)


Last edited by Underdog15 on 8/13/2011 1:43:10 AM

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

@Excelsior
I didn't mean FFXIII had anything the same as other FF's. I meant FFXIII used the same song with various tempos and renditions throughout the game in and of itself. I wasn't comparing it to other FF's.

Underdog15
Underdog15
9 years ago

gtg to bed. sry >.<

I'll check back here tomorrow.

Excelsior1
Excelsior1
9 years ago

@underdog

sorry i misunderstood on ff. wow, what an in depth critique of halo's music. good job. music tastes are so subjective. people sometimes just like certain things. while you might of wanted more from the rain track apparently jmo loves it. it's really hard to say anybody is right or wrong here. sounds like you put a lot of thought into it so i appluad you for that.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Let's not let this drag on too long.

Halo has a fine soundtrack. I just don't think it's all that great, from an artistic or gameplay standpoint.

Mounce
Mounce
9 years ago

Jeez, JMO, just take a hint that just because you find a song awesome doesn't mean at the global scales of all gamers as a whole that they too must agree with your opinion. It is overrated due to the series itself being overrated, I'd say I hate the Halo music the same way Ben Dutka pointed out that you just hear the main theme in every singe title, beyond that I hate how they deliberately seemed to ENFORCE the music as a way to make the game 'seem' 'Epic', when the fact is, it's just another average shooter. Putting in choir music has the advantages of making most things sound epic, if you can realize the music is what's doing the work for a game genre that usually never has a choir involved. It just means nothing.

Stop telling people to listen to it as if, if they did infact listen to it as 'Passionately' as you, that they'd totally apologize and say they were wrong and it's just SO AWESOME…..When you can't just freaking 'convert' others like some crazed religion.

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
9 years ago

I think the KZ3 soundtrack which was included in the Helghast Edition, is also another good one too.

Temjin001
Temjin001
9 years ago

If I remember right, you can place the PSX SotN disc into your cd player and listen to the entire soundtrack. I did it all the time.

EDIT: I think you have to quickly skip past the first track or two after loading the game disc.


Last edited by Temjin001 on 8/12/2011 10:21:50 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Oh, don't worry. I've done that. 😉

Clamedeus
Clamedeus
9 years ago

Indeed, not many people knew that you could listen to the soundtrack on a PS1 disc if you put it into a CD Player. I don't think a lot had it though? I don't remember.

Drake_RB3
Drake_RB3
9 years ago

Yea, and I think Alucard talks to you for a bit too if you do that.

Gordo
Gordo
9 years ago

Good points Ben…

I think that a soundtrack is a crucial part of a games overall package. In my opinion NIER has a sublime soundtrack and in fact it doesn't just compliment the game but it is the central part that influences everything else.

To be honest, I wouldn't have ever brought the game if it wasn't for the music.

Demons Souls as well had a very atmospheric and appropriate soundtrack. MGS4 was hauntingly brilliant and totally integrated into the game experience.

An excellent soundtrack help elevates games to a higher level.

Never played SotN so will check Youtube for some samples.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Nier's soundtrack was absolutely incredible.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Nier was great in a lot of ways. Didn't get anywhere near enough attention.

Dante399
Dante399
9 years ago

Well….I love Castlevania SOTN's music for sure and I have a list of other excellent games soundtracks that rock:
The King of Fighters 96
Thunder Strike II
Tekken 3
Tekken 5
Chrono Cross
Final Fantasy 7
Final Fantasy X
Final Fantasy Crisis Core
Final Fantasy Crystal Chronicles
Warhawk
Casltevania Curse of Darkness
Casltevania Lament of Innocence
Assassin Creed 2
Devil May Cry 3
Eternal Sonata
Silent Hill 2
Prince of Persia Warrior Within
Shadow of the Colossus
Sonic the Hedgehog 3
Captain Tsubasa 2
Wipeout (all)
Grand Turismo (all)

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

The AC games all have beautiful scores, and DMC has kick-ass tracks, too.

Wipeout definitely qualifies as do most FFs. I'd put Chrono Cross in my top 5, if I'm remembering it correctly.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

Symphony really is incredible, Rondo of Blood is actually almost as good too. I have an unreleased soundtrack from Castlevania Resurrection, the canceled Dreamcast title, that is really good too.

That was the one thing that sucked about Lords of Shadow, it didn't follow the music style of old Castlevanias.

FFXIII is good too, but I really love the licensed stuff for Bioshock and Fallout. I think music is essential to the experience of a game and am saddened by the fact that more games don't let you use your MP3s in their in-game radios and such.

telly
telly
9 years ago

Was definitely disappointed Lords of Shadow didn't have any old school-style Castlevania tracks. I enjoyed that game but I wish they had included more touches to make it feel like the old Castlevania games. I'm sure the developers figured crazy Japanese orchestral-horror-techno would alienate some western gamers, along with pizzas and drum sticks hidden in candlesticks. They were right, of course, but I don't have to like it 🙂

sirbob6
sirbob6
9 years ago

Demon's Souls has to be my favorite.

The songs were varied enough but still fit into the game's setting and atmosphere perfectly. Without it the game wouldn't be anywhere near as awesome.

Clamedeus
Clamedeus
9 years ago

When you fight Garl Vinland, omg… Epic music plays. 😮

sirbob6
sirbob6
9 years ago

I know!
That one and the Fool's Idol have to be my favorites.

WorldEndsWithMe
WorldEndsWithMe
9 years ago

I put in Indigo Prophecy last night, Quantic Dream is brilliant with mood music and you can easily hear the basis for the excellent Heavy Rain theme in there.

SolidFantasy
SolidFantasy
9 years ago

Sadly I've never played SotN. So I'll have to take your word for it. There are so many potential winners for me. Can't decide as it's a very competitive category.

Warrior Poet
Warrior Poet
9 years ago

I totally agree, Ben! Things like literature and music are often really overlooked in games and that's a shame.

I don't know if I could call it the best ever, but I just started playing Eternal Sonata last week and Chopin's stuff is really incredible. He's my new favorite pianist! I also really enjoyed the sounds in Valkyrie Profile 2 last month…Mirror's Edge is incredible too. I could probably just list every game I ever thought had cool music, so I better stop here 😛

But the best ever? That's extremely tough. I'll have to think about that…

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Yeah, Eternal Sonata gets on the list for Chopin alone. Classical music is timeless for a reason.

Cuetes
Cuetes
9 years ago

I always thought GTA Vice City and San Andreas had nice soundtracks, sure they were recycled tracks but it made good games into instant classics.

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

LOVE Vice City. One of my all-time favorites. …but just because I love my '80s. 😉

PAKINIPS
PAKINIPS
9 years ago

Vice city's sound track is my getting drunk music xD

Beamboom
Beamboom
9 years ago

@Pakinips: lol, the entire VC game is a worthy companion while getting drunk. 😀
Oh man I would *so* have bought a HD collection of the GTA3 family games (3/vc/sr) had it been released.

telly
telly
9 years ago

GTAs are the Tarantino soundtracks of video games — take popular music and re-contextualize it as an intricate part of your art. Listening to "Land Down Under" as you tear across South Beach while firing a machine gun at cops in hot pursuit was an absolute riot of a good time back in the day. I can still remember crying I was laughing so hard.

BikerSaint
BikerSaint
9 years ago

For those who never played SoTN, here's some of the music…..

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kPvbJAzJspc

More here….

http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=sotn+music&aq=f


Last edited by BikerSaint on 8/12/2011 11:58:12 PM

Ben Dutka PSXE
Ben Dutka PSXE
9 years ago

Dance of Pales is my favorite.

aaronisbla
aaronisbla
9 years ago

dance of pales kicks all forms of ass

aaronisbla
aaronisbla
9 years ago

my fav track from sotn has to be Final Toccata, the only fault some can find with it is that its probably the most played track during the second half of the game