Video game music

Last updated Sunday, 2 November 2014 — 7:34am

In the early 2000s I discovered the burgeoning online community of musicians who dedicated themselves to rearranging or remixing the music of video games. Many of the websites and artists involved have come and gone, while several of the leading figures in the movement have since become professional video game composers themselves. These days, the pre-eminent hubs for the game music scene are the long-surviving repository that is OverClocked ReMix and the annual festival MAGFest.

As an exercise to teach myself the fundamentals of audio production and play with the instrument sounds on my Clavinova CVP-206, I contributed a handful of my own recordings. Some are now entirely lost, while others were scattered to the winds and distributed in torrents or on archival salvage sites upon the collapse of VGMix, the site where I used to post my work.

A few surviving tracks remain in my possession, though not the original masters. They sound rather poor to me now, in both recording quality and musicianship, but collectors occasionally come to me in search of them, so I have made them available below.


Super Metroid—Shinesparks (5:18) Trapped for years in the OverClocked ReMix queue, this is an arrangement of the Maridia underwater theme from Kenji Yamamoto and Minako Hamano’s complex and eerie score, set for an assortment of electronic keyboards and synthetic pitched percussion. One might alternatively call it Metroid Fusion. I first recorded the track in 2008, but a few serious defects in production quality demanded that I remaster it from scratch, which for various reasons I was unable to do until five years later, when it was finally published by OCR. You can also find this track on YouTube.

Tales of Symphonia—Continental Divide (3:24)
This is an orchestral take on the rather incidental “Dry Trail,” the track that plays as you descend the Fooji Mountains into Tethe’alla. It was originally recorded back in July 2005 for Summoning of Spirits, a massive Tales of Phantasia and Symphonia project produced by Kyle Crouse and Aleah Baker that was completed and published in 2009. The track is also available on YouTube. Pardon the clarinet; I recorded it live, whereas the rest of the instruments are synthesized, and it is a smidgen sharp.

Tales of Symphonia—Fair Lass of Ozette (3:54)
This is another 2005 creation based on Motoi Sakuraba’s extensive soundtrack: Presea’s theme set against the Ozette melody, with a contrapuntal dash of Colette’s motif near the end. The instrumentation was in part inspired by the textures of the folksy Canadian music I grew up with in those early adolescent summer camp years before I discovered jazz. I like to think it fits.

Final Fantasy VIII—Blue Eyes On Me (3:02)
After a night of too much Artie Shaw, I thought it would be neat to take Faye Wong’s cheesy ’90s pop tune and turn it into a cheesy ’40s pop tune. I was a bit rusty on the clarinet at the time, not having played it in years, and it shows; nevertheless, there was no way I could go with a synthesized one to get the effect I wanted. I panned the instruments out a bit to avoid crowding the centre channel, at the cost of the authentic effect of monophonic sound.

Earthbound—Fourside Hilton (5:27)
This is a very light quasi-Latin interpretation of the Hotel and Fourside themes, two of the more conventional tunes from Keiichi Suzuki’s oddball score. I recorded it for RPGamer’s Splendid Performance competition, where it placed third in its category (music from RPGs not published by Square). I was working on a tight deadline, so I actually looped the bass and drums, which is why they come off as so inert; as for the piano, I deliberately refrained from any technical fireworks, and I think it was the right decision.

The Legend of Zelda: The Wind Waker—Sleeping Dragon (4:28)
“Dragon Roost Island,” but sparse and somnambulant. This was the result of my fiddling around with the guitar sounds on my Clavinova one very late night. Reactions to the guitar have ranged from someone who thought it was supposed to be a harp (which would have been a good idea, because of the instrument’s association with Dragon Roost in the game) to someone who sent me a message asking if I could provide him with the tablature.

Super Mario Bros. live jazz trio (5:24)
This is a swing arrangement of mine that was recorded live in April 2006. I played it to open the second half of a concert featuring the university jazz choir I accompanied at the time. I wasn’t quite warmed up, so it’s stiff and sloppy in places, and back then I was only starting to get the hang of coherent melodic improvisation. The audience didn’t seem to mind.