Though I’ve stated in the past that – for the most part – gaming is better now than it’s ever been, that doesn’t ring true for all of its elements. Video game music has notably lost much of its magic over the past several years. While video game scores have not-so-secretly been outdoing movie scores for the past few decades, modern gaming has seen the medium try harder and harder to replicate film scores, leading video game music to lose much of its identity and becoming more and more interchangeable.
That’s in the general sense, of course. Exceptionalist that I am, there are always going to be standouts that break this trend, and remind us all why video game music can provide melodies like no other (just as there have been exceptional movie scores over the past few decades that stand above the aforementioned ‘vanilla’ sounds of many of their contemporaries).
While 2018 may not have been the banner year for video game music that 2017 was, it still provided its share of great soundtracks, with one in particular reminding me how great video game music can be.
Winner: Super Smash Bros. Ultimate
I admit, I feel like I’m kind of cheating with this one. Not so much because Super Smash Bros. features remixes of countless video game tunes of yesteryear, but because Ultimate probably features less original remixes than the past few entries. But I do feel that Ultimate has enough original takes on classic themes to justify this selection.
Yes, the majority of Ultimate’s soundtrack was carried over from Super Smash Bros. for Wii U/3DS. But it has enough newness to it to make it stand on its own. Plus, with the soundtrack of Smash 4 intact, Ultimate pretty much boasts the biggest collection of classic video game melodies compiled into a single game.
Between the sweet Castlevania remixes, and the DK soundtracks finally getting some additional attention from the series (though some extra DKC2 and Tropical Freeze tracks are always welcome), and everything from Mario to Mega Man to Metal Gear included, Super Smash Bros. Ultimate delivers the classic video game music that we could sorely use more of these days.
Runner-up: Ni No Kuni 2: Revenant Kingdom
2014: Donkey Kong Country: Tropical Freeze
2016: Dark Souls 3
2017: Super Mario Odyssey
4 thoughts on “Video Game Awards 2019: Best Music”
I don’t really agree with music going downhill in the medium, the more movie-esque style feels like it comes out more from big western developed titles like Spiderman or Assassin’s Creed, the japanese still seem to be doing fine at it (although sometimes the lyric and chorus based tracks can get tiresome), and it’s nice that they’re no longer limited by low quality sound files or not being able to use real instruments when creating these.
I feel Ultimate was an improvement soundtrack wise over 4, but it still felt disappointing compared to Brawl with how…uneven the distribution of tracks was, with the likes of Kirby, F-Zero or Sonic getting little to nothing new while Megaman gets an overkill amount of new remixes (and I think the argument of the series having some of the best music in videogames is silly when you could say that for so many franchises in Smash), don’t even get me started on FF sorry state. But even without that, I don’t really like putting Smash in the music category with how many tracks it simply reuses from other games.
Looking at what little I’ve played last year, I’d either give the award to Star Allies or Bloodstained Curse of the Moon, which were both good but not exactly amazing either.
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Maybe I do sound a bit harsh. Japanese games and a number of indie titles still produce great music. But I do think that many major releases have watered down video game music and made it into, well, movie knockoffs.
Oh, there are definitely issues with Ultimate’s soundtrack. It definitely is skewed in favor of certain series. I’m guessing Mega Man got so many new remixes by request of Capcom, seeing as Street Fighter received a number of new tracks as well (thankfully, it was a bit silly that Smash Wii U only had remixes of Ryu and Ken’s themes). Hell, even the DK series only seemed to get new tracks that relate to King K. Rool (a character I have a feeling Sakurai added begrudgingly, given his nonsensical reasons for excluding him in the past). As for Final Fantasy, I’m guessing that’s Square being Square. It doesn’t even make much sense these days, seeing as Square is not in the position in the gaming world they once were to justify such stinginess/arrogance, but it honestly wouldn’t surprise me if I were to find out Square just didn’t allow more tracks.
I’d say aiming for a more cinematic experience might be to blame for that, unfortunate as that might be.
I believe it was said before release composers were pretty much given free reign on what they would rearrange, but we’ll probably never know how true that statement was, not like it’d make much sense to lie about that of all things. And yeah, I think I read Square has some really weird copyrights on their songs where they even can’t use them that easily without costing them money, but I think that just shows how…incompetent they are.
I don’t think K. Rool was added with spite or anything, probably no character is, but Ridley feels closer to that given previous comments in interviews about his size being problematic and whatnot.
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