It's a huge honor to be allowed to participate in RPGFan's Music of the Year celebrations! 2015 has been an excellent year for video game music, and most of it has accompanied me while writing reviews here. With such a fantastic selection to choose from, I forced myself to pick what really blew me away, otherwise my my list could've easily been double what it is. With a surprise indie-hit, that arranged album from a certain Yasunori Mistuda everyone's been waiting for, and one of my all-time favorites from a few years ago making up some of the numbers, I hope you'll share my enthusiasm for the awesome array of music from 2015 (and before.)
Tales of Zestiria's soundtrack conveys exactly what the game does — an open, sprawling landscape with hidden, mysterious ruins that are itching to be explored. As Motoi Sakuraba's sweeping orchestral melodies accompany you on the field, Go Shiina's mystical temple themes will inspire the inner Indiana Jones in you. These temple themes bring an exotic twist to the medieval world of Zestiria, as if each track is telling you of a lost race from thousands of years ago with treasures waiting to be revealed. Shiina's "Rising Up" may be one of the best vocal battle themes ever, poignant and epic with an empowering set of lyrics to rile you up. Sakuraba is not to be outdone either, though, showing that with time and care, and by ditching the usual Tales staple of synth, he can produce some of his most gorgeous tunes. It's a series best composition, one that perfectly encapsulates the themes of Zestiria in musical style, and leaves you begging for more Shiina afterwards.
Have you heard...
Bra☆Bra Final Fantasy Brass de Bravo
Does BRASS de BRAVO bring beautiful music to our ears? You'll have to hear for yourself!
At first, I struggled to engage with Hiroyuki Sawano's electric and vocal tracks. Yet by the time I crash-landed on Mira, I was completely blown away by the sheer variety of musical styles and how well they fit in the game, even if the lyrics of some of the songs don't click. Luckily, if you struggle with that last one, Sawano demonstrates his huge range throughout the game with gorgeous piano melodies and outstanding themes as you explore the planet Mira — there is truly something for everyone here. His eclectic mix of styles and genres all manage to convey not only the unknown fear of landing on a new planet, but also the wonder in being able to explore it. The game's battle themes get your heart racing and make you feel as though you can take down any foe, and even if you don't like the lyrics, you'll be headbanging away as you take on your opponent. Primordia's theme, "NLA Shuuhen," is epic and conveys the trepidation you feel as you step out onto Mira for the first time; it manages to replicate the scale of the planet while also emphasising the gorgeous landscape you're walking across. Mira will become many a gamer's home for the over 100 hours it takes to see everything and there's no better accompaniment than Sawano's soundtrack.
Also See Our Review:
Xenoblade [Chronicles] X OST Review
It's not surprising that my favourite soundtrack of the year comes from my favourite game of the year, but Undertale's music is as unique as the entire game, and what could be more fitting than that? Toby Fox has managed to expertly blend chiptunes and real instruments to create a truly memorable soundtrack that is a mix of emotionally powerful, incredibly joyful, and dangerously catchy — and I wouldn't want it any other way. The plethora of battle themes is astounding and I could've easily picked from a number of them — the pacing and timing of these themes are perfect and expertly reflect the character and the situation, some building the tempo as they go along, others remaining upbeat and enthralling the whole battle. Some of the area themes are soothing and simple by comparison, but they provide the perfect antidote to the fast-paced battle themes you'll hear along the way. And to think, just one person composed the entire soundtrack. Hats off to you, Toby Fox.
I wonder if the staff and forum members are fed up with me mentioning Grandia II's outstanding soundtrack yet. Regardless, I could hardly leave this classic out, even if the soundtrack didn't get a re-release in 2015. Grandia II has my all-time favorite battle theme, and the soundtrack easily sits within my top 10. It's a largely uplifting soundtrack with up-tempo tunes and strong beats to it, but Iwadare demonstrates through his lyrical tracks and slow, piano numbers that Grandia II has a breadth of music that should not be forgotten; he can do sad, epic, powerful, and menacing, all with a hint of anime-cheese that creates a beautiful musical package. It's an instant shot of nostalgia that I never tire of, and with the re-release of Grandia II, I hope many others will find this soundtrack as much of a joy to listen to as I still do years later.
Also See Our Reviews:
Grandia II ~Deus~ Review
Grandia II ~Povo~ Review
Have you heard...
Re:Birth II -Ren- / SaGa Battle Arrange
You won't be able to stay still with these ardent battle arrangements by Kenji Ito and Noriyuki Kamikura!
This album was a long time coming, but it was definitely worth the wait. Yasunori Mitsuda's original compositions stand as some of the best video game music of all time, and these rearranged tracks only bolster that standing. Mitsuda reinvigorates some of the best loved music from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross in beautiful fashion which instantly transports me back to the worlds they come from. "Time's Scar" is already one of the best opening songs ever, and the vocals and guitar in this rendition add buckets of drama and power to an already remarkable track. Imagine a remake of either game with these recomposed versions, and you can practically feel yourself salivate. Although we may never get a remake, we can savour the legacy that Mitsuda has created through these outstanding rearrangements.
Like the rest of the game, Super Mario Maker's music is like getting into the best time machine ever and re-experiencing all of those Mario favourites from the last three decades. Koji Kondo's music from the Mario series is timeless, but the new compositions stand should to shoulder with the originals. The old favourites are remixed in styles ranging from funky jazz to slow, soothing tunes, so you can expect a smile to emerge on your face while listening to them. Kondo has even returned to the beloved classics and created tracks in the style of the NES and SNES games; so when you're creating the next Ghost House for Super Mario Bros. 3, it will sound just as authentic as the NES original.