I have been on the outs with game music for a while now. For the past several years we’d been hearing more and more bombastically boring orchestral scores trying to mimic the style of John Williams. That, or it was just a bunch of licensed tracks or worse, APM Music. There’s still loads of that happening but I feel like 2012 in particular saw an explosion of musical creativity. Here’s a rundown of the soundtracks that have been on heavy rotation.
Disasterpeace’s soundtrack is a perfect match to the cerebral world of Fez but it also works great on those fuzzy mornings to jumpstart your mind and spirit. Hono Bono is largely packed with traditional Chinese sounds but a few tracks in particular hit some incredible highs. Double Dragon Neon is notable not just for its remixed Double Dragon tracks but the work that Jake Kaufman put into the style parodies of the power-up mixtapes. Like Hono Bono, both Bravely Default and Gravity Daze have incredible, soaring pieces filled with horns, guitars and driving beats that helped me survive some rough days.
The soundtrack to Zombies. was a late find for me but it’s been on heavy rotation for weeks now. It’s got big hits and heavy drops but its crunchy synth sounds also feature some surprisingly touching melodies. Newer still is Retro Family’s soundtrack to Pid, the crushingly difficult indie platform/puzzler. While you’re being killed in a single hit and dropping yourself out of gravity beams into oblivion, the music stays mellow and soothing. Even the boss music plays it cool. It’s almost worth struggling through just to hang out in Pid’s world and chill out to this music.
And a total last second addition is Tokyo Jungle’s soundtrack by TaQ. I hated it (and the game) at first but after coming to appreciate the strict, directed actions the game requires I feel the soundtrack fits perfectly. Driving beats and sweeping tunes push you ever forward into a trance-like state as you fight to survive. Also works good while driving.
Remixes and Honorable Mentions
Here’s a few stragglers that didn’t fit into the 2012 soundtrack category. The SQ series (that’s SQ for Square) grew this year with three more remix albums. I don’t even know most of the source material but the quality of these albums continues to sound great to me. More chiptunes join the surprising festhaus atmosphere of Beer SQ and the electro/metal sounds of Battle SQ. P.S. It’s got a dubstep remix of the Final Fantasy victory tune.
I was all set to throw Hotline Miami in my official 2012 soundtrack category but it turns out all that music is licensed from other artists. Still, it’s a great collection of music that perfectly fits the neon-soaked, homicidal rage of the game. And last up is Treasure Adventure Game which was technically a 2011 release but whose soundtrack had me boppin’ my head to its SNES-inspired RPG sounds all through 2012.