Music of the Year 2014 Categories

Mike Salbato's Music of the Year
Editors' Favorites

I feel like I cheated a little bit here. I have one album that's genuinely from a 2014 title, two 2013 titles whose soundtracks released in 2014, and then there's Bravely Default, which may be a 2012 release technically, but we only got the game in 2014. And yes, two of these were on my list last year, but the soundtracks weren't available yet, and I have no shame when it comes to double-dipping in great music.

Had I played the likes of Persona Q and Child of Light like my compatriots here, I'm sure I'd have had to make some tough choices about what to include. Maybe I'll find a way to include them for 2015...

Have you heard...

Kingdom Hearts -HD 2.5 ReMIX- OST

Rockestral music? In my Kingdom Hearts II? It's more likely than you think.

Final Fantasy XIV: A Realm Reborn OST
Composed by Masayoshi Soken, Nobuo Uematsu, Tsuyoshi Sekito, Naoshi Mizuta, Nobuko Toda (Film Score), Yoshitaka Suzuki (Film Score)

I've written way too much about Final Fantasy XIV on this site. I'm sure some of you are tired of hearing about it, but since the soundtrack officially released in 2014, I'm including it here for a second year (this time with actual track titles!). A Realm Reborn's giant 120-track soundtrack has slow-moving piano themes for the game's quieter moments, rocking guitar themes for some of the primal battles, and everything in between. It's that lovely combination of quantity and quality that is all too rarely seen. Sometimes I wonder if I'm overly praising the music, but then I consider the hundreds of hours I've played the game and the fact that I'm still enjoying the music.

Favorite Tracks:
Torn from the Heavens
Fallen Angel

Also See Our Review: A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV OST Review

Bravely Default Flying Fairy OST
Composed and Arranged by Revo

I typically won't listen to a soundtrack until I've played a game and heard each song in context. But sometimes, I make exceptions, and after hearing the praise from my fellow editors directed at Revo's music in Bravely Default, I gave in and bought the soundtrack. I still haven't played the game (!?), but this album quickly became one of my all-time favorites. A great mix of upbeat, inspiring, and introspective themes, I've lost track of how many times I've let it loop in the background while I work. I wish I'd given in and listened to this stuff when it released in Japan in 2012, but I'm so happy that I discovered it at all.

Favorite Tracks:
You are My Hope
Love's Vagrant
The Day the Wind Blew

Also See Our Review: Bravely Default Flying Fairy OST Review

Chrono Trigger Symphony Volume 3
Composed by Yasunori Mitsuda, Nobuo Uematsu, Noriko Matsueda; Arranged By The Blake Robinson Synthetic Orchestra

How great is it that in a feature celebrating music of 2014, I can include my all-time favorite RPG, a game released in 1995? Chrono Trigger is my favorite work of Yasunori Mitsuda, despite the strong competition from his masterful Chrono Cross soundtrack. Blake Robinson worked some magic in his three-part Chrono Trigger Symphony, and as he generally followed the track list of the official soundtrack, some of the strongest pieces are here on Volume 3. His renditions of Schala's Theme and basically all of the end game tracks are just wonderful. They're so great, yet so short; World Revolution is only 2:21!? The fact that I just want it to last longer is the only issue I have with this otherwise excellent work that just makes me want to replay Chrono Trigger for the fifteenth time.

Favorite Tracks:
Schala's Theme
Chrono & Marle - A Distant Promise
World Revolution

Also See Our Review: Chrono Trigger Symphony Volume 3 Review

Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII OST
Composed by Masashi Hamauzu, Naoshi Mizuta, Mitsuto Suzuki, Nobuo Uematsu

Lightning Returns (the game) is either brilliant or a mess. I can't decide, and even once I finally finish it, I may not have an answer. I originally wrote this music off for being overly-atmospheric, but the more I listen to it, the more I realize I wasn't really listening to it. There's certainly more mood pieces here compared to the first two albums: Some somber, some just so subtle that they work well in-game, but are forgettable when listened to on their own.

Everything else though? Lovely. Lightning Returns has its own musical identity, but it's also fully aware of its heritage, and several musical pieces from the first two games reappear here, interspersed with each other in (often) new arrangements. It's a fascinating and fulfilling way to handle the music of not only a threequel, but the finale of a trilogy. Lightning's theme, the ever-favorite FFXIII battle music, Blinded By Light, and more show up in unexpected places, but are used differently enough to stand out from their original counterparts. The new guitar and rock-themed event and battle music is just a rocking good time. As a result of all these themes coming together, the game has several battle themes, and each one does a fitting job of pumping you up to fight.

And just in case I wasn't completely sold on it already, we even got a new rendition of Noel's Theme (one of my absolute favorites from FFXIII-2). Do yourself a favor: Don't do what I did and pass this one up. Regardless of your thoughts on the game, or even the entire FFXIII trilogy, this is music worth listening to.

Favorite Tracks:
A Carefree Existence
Death Game

Also See Our Review: Lightning Returns: Final Fantasy XIII OST Review

The Legend of Zelda: A Link Between Worlds (Sound Selection)
Composed by Ryo Nagamatsu, Koji Kondo, Akito Nakatsuka

Like Final Fantasy XIV, A Link Between Worlds was a 2013 release, but didn't get a soundtrack release until 2014. Unlike FFXIV, this soundtrack was only available as a Club Nintendo reward, instead of being a thing that people can, you know, just purchase. Oh, Nintendo... why do you have games like this and Twilight Princess and shy away from soundtrack releases?

As soon as I heard the title screen music in ALBW, I knew what I was getting into: an homage, a throwback, a love letter to the SNES A Link to the Past. While this album is largely original in its themes, from the hilarious-yet-menacing chanting in Yuga's battle theme, to the whimsical music in Ravio's Shop, there are just enough rearranged themes here to really tug at the heartstrings. The Dark World/Lorule themes are intact, yet much grander in scale, and some recurring themes from the likes of Ocarina of Time make welcome appearances as well.

And if there was any doubt, we have Lorule Castle, which gradually builds layers upon layers of instrumentation until becoming a wonderfully grand final dungeon theme that rivals some of the best in the series.

Favorite Tracks:
Dark World Main Theme
Lorule Castle

Have you heard...

Monarch: Heroes of a New Age OST

Thanks to Scarlet Moon Records, we get the chance to hear Nauts' captivating soundtrack.

Favorite Single Songs
Drag-on Dragoon 3 OST

The more I listened to this album, the more I realized that, despite some great recurring themes, I didn't love the overall package as much as my actual picks above. I do, however, still get chills when listening to This Silence is Mine, making it one of my two favorite "singles" of 2014.

This Silence is Mine

Also See Our Review: Drag-on Dragoon 3 OST Review

Square Enix Music Sampler Vol 9

This track will no doubt end up on the next Final Fantasy XIV soundtrack release, but until then, this Tokyo Game Show sampler album is the only official source for it. FFXIV's dungeons have a musical theme in which they offer a short intro track that leads into the "main" dungeon music. Through the Gloom — introduced in December 2013 with the Pharos Sirius dungeon — proved to be so popular of an intro that composer Masayoshi Soken composed this long version that now plays throughout the entire dungeon. He took one of my favorite, albeit brief, musical moments in the game, and gave us 5+ minutes of this haunting, ethereal beauty that I can't stop listening to.

A Realm Reborn: Final Fantasy XIV - Through the Gloom / Long Version

Favorite Non-RPG Albums
The Anime and Game Collection by Taylor Davis

It's no secret that violinist Taylor Davis is a huge favorite of mine. Of all her album and single releases so far, my favorite is her most recent album, which compiles various game and anime themes. It's not RPG-heavy enough that we cover it in RPGFan Music, despite her amazing rendition of FFVII's Cosmo Canyon. I'm okay with listing this under Non-RPG, though, because I can highlight possibly my favorite track from the entire Mega Man series, Dr. Wily's Castle, The Last of Us theme, Attack on Titan, and more. If you like the violin, or just good music, I recommend it. It doesn't even matter if you know the themes — I have no idea what Angel Beats! is, yet it's one of my favorite tracks on the album.

Favorite Tracks:
Cosmo Canyon (From "Final Fantasy VII")
Dr. Wily's Castle (From "Mega Man 2")
Angel Beats! Theme

History Repeating: Red by The Megas

Speaking of old-school Mega Man... The Megas take music from older titles — Mega Man 2 & 3 so far — write lyrics for each robot master, and turn great chiptunes music into awesome rock albums with a story. Their heart-wrenching take on Protoman was front and center in this "Red" album focused on Mega Man 3, but I just love what they do in general. Bubble Man's internal monologue about how his bubble powers are a joke amongst his peers, the old west-style showdown of Quick Man's theme, and of course, the eternal conflict within Mega Man himself are just a few of the ways this California-based band has transformed these themes. Not that I don't love any well-done arrangement from Mega Man 2/3, but these guys took their love of this music to a whole new level. Can Mega Man X please be next?

Favorite Tracks:
Fly on a Dog
I'm Not the Breakman
Melody from the Past

Twitch Schedule & Status

Sunday, December 16th
Rogue Galaxy w/Maxx • 10am PDT/1pm EDT

Darksiders w/Maxx • 12pm PDT/3pm EDT
Digimon Story: Cyber Sleuth - Hacker's Memory w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Kingdom Hearts: Dream Drop Distance w/Kyle • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Fire Emblem: Path of Radiance w/Kat • 3pm PDT/6pm EDT
Friday Super Variety Night w/Scott • 7pm PDT/10pm EDT

Dragon Quest XI w/Scott • 5pm PDT/8pm EDT

Games of the Year 2018: Readers' Choice

Games of the Year 2018: Readers' Choice

Vote now!
Retro Encounter Final Thoughts ~ Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Retro Encounter Final Thoughts ~ Nine Hours, Nine Persons, Nine Doors

Podcast Feature
RPGFan Founders Roundtable ~ An RPGFan 20th Anniversary Feature

RPGFan Founders Roundtable

An RPGFan 20th Anniversary Feature
Crowdfunding Chronicles Volume 3

Crowdfunding Chronicles Volume 3

NieR: Automata Orchestral Arrangement Album Review

NieR: Automata Orchestral Arrangement Album

RPGFan Launches Daily 'This Day in Gaming' Video Series

RPGFan Launches Daily "This Day in Gaming" Video Series

Video Series