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Day Five: Mike Salbato's Music of the Year
Self-proclaimed Creative Director, Mike has more game soundtracks in his music library than any other genre, and by a wide margin. While only recently inviting himself on joining the hosts of Rhythm Encounter, he's been a huge game music fan ever since convincing his parents they needed to let him order the Final Fantasy VI (III) soundtrack from Squaresoft back in the days before the internet.

Interestingly enough, FFVI makes an appearance here in 2013, along with the rest of Mike's favorite picks from 2013.

5) The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds
Composed by Ryo Nagamatsu
The soundtrack to A Link Between Worlds is lovely for the exact same reasons the game itself is: it excels at being both new and familiar at once. The new arrangements and instrumentation on those tracks carried over from A Link to the Past hit me right in the nostalgic feels, and the new stuff fits right in with it, too.

Favorite Tracks:
Lorule Overworld
Maimai Cave
Death Mountain

4) Chrono Trigger Symphony Volume 1
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, Arranged and Synthetically Orchestrated by Blake Robinson
I described Blake Robinson's trilogy of Chrono Trigger Symphony albums, essentially, as the same tracks you know and love from Chrono Trigger, but with better instrumentation. It sounds like I'm downplaying it at best, or mildly insulting at worst, but it's exactly what the albums are. And that's great! I don't need every rearrangement of a song to be so wildly different from its source that I can't find the original melody. Robinson stays entirely true to the soul of each song, but brings us the musical equivalent of an HD remake, and I'm more than pleased with the results.

Favorite Tracks:
Gato's Song (seriously)
The Cathedral
Frog's Theme

Also See Our Review: Chrono Trigger Symphony Volume 1 Review

3) A Bard's Side Quest
Composed by various, Performed by Erutan
I'll try not to rehash what I said in my review, but Erutan's vocal covers on A Bard's Side Quest are not to be missed. She covers some of the best tracks in some of the best RPGs we've known – Final Fantasy IX, Xenogears, and Chrono Cross all make appearances – and her voice is pure bliss. Given that very few of these songs even had lyrics in their original forms makes Erutan even more impressive as both an artist and lyricist. I've been listening to this album for most of the year, and it has yet to lose its luster.

Favorite Tracks:
You're Not Alone - Final Fantasy IX
Suteki Da Ne - Final Fantasy X
To My Dear Friends - Chrono Trigger

Also See Our Review: A Bard's Side Quest Review

2) Balance and Ruin: Inspired by Final Fantasy VI
Composed by Nobuo Uematsu, Arranged by various OCRemixers
There are few games more dear to my heart than Final Fantasy VI. When OC Remix announced that its biggest album project to date was to be built around my favorite Final Fantasy title, I was excited, but couldn't have been prepared for the majesty of what this group of artists delivered. The character themes in particular are wonderful, and the three tracks that make up the 17 minutes of music surrounding the timeless opera scene are more than we deserve. An impressive achievement of collaboration, only one album could top Balance and Ruin for me in 2013.

Favorite Tracks:
Terra's Resolve (Terra)
A Simple Flip Can Change Fate (Coin Song)
The Nightmare Oath (Overture)

1) Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn
Composed by Masayoshi Soken
Speaking of monumental achievements, we have Masayoshi Soken's work on Final Fantasy XIV's reboot, A Realm Reborn. As of now, to say I've sunk hundreds of hours into the game is perhaps a light estimate. I've played enough that the soundtrack should be nothing but background noise – or something I turn off to play other music – but I don't even consider it. I've heard each town's gorgeous night time themes countless times now, and I still find myself stopping just to listen. It's safe to say that it's one of my favorite soundtracks of all time, and one of the strongest ever for a Final Fantasy game. After months of waiting, we'll finally be able to buy the music this month, and I cannot wait.

Favorite Tracks:
Binding Coil of Bahamut - Boss
Major FATE
Fieldleves

Best 2011 Album I Finally Heard in 2013: To the Moon
Composed by Kan Gao
I was way late in playing Kan Gao's tear-jerker To the Moon, but by the time I reached the end in a sobbing heap of emotion, I'm so glad I gave it a chance. The music is very central to the emotion and experience, to the point that hearing River's piano song even now still gets to me. Old news for many, but I fell too hard in love with To the Moon to not give it recognition somewhere.

Favorite Tracks:
For River - Piano (Johnny's Version)
Moongazer
Everything's Alright (by Laura Shigihara)

Also See Our Review: To the Moon OST Review

Best Non-RPG Album of 2013: Crimson Dragon
Composed by Saori Kobayashi & Jeremy Garren
While Crimson Dragon itself didn't live up to the hopes people had of a modern-day Panzer Dragoon, the soundtrack was nothing short of stunning. With compositions by Saori Kobayashi – known for the likes of NiGHTS Into Dreams, Panzer Dragoon Saga, and Panzer Dragoon Orta – along with Jeremy Garren, and OC Remix favorite Jillian Aversa, Crimson Dragon completely floored me with its majesty. It's an energetic mix of upbeat, dramatic, and simply all-around gorgeous music, and my biggest surprise musical discovery of 2013.

The album is available on iTunes.






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