It's been an incredible year for RPG music, and I was really hard pressed to pick just a few albums to throw in the spotlight. Of course, Xenoblade and Final Fantasy XIV are in the mix (and let's be real, if I didn't include them, you'd all think I was some alien impostor, right?), but there were also some unexpected gems and late arrivals that really surprised me in the best way possible. In hindsight, I could have added more, since 2015 was also a great year for arrange albums, but I think I'm happy with the selection I ended up with — it's very me and there's awesome music to listen to. That's a win-win.
One of the things The Witcher 3 does best is create a great sense of place, and the music plays a big part in that. At times, it's almost familiar — there are cues strongly reminiscent of Jesper Kyd's work on the Assassin's Creed series, for instance — but then there are elements, like the vocal work, that sound pretty distinct from what you hear in other fantasy RPGs. Some of the songs actually reminded me of a Finnish folk group I'm particularly fond of, and while I don't mean to conflate the traditional music of Finland and Poland, it did go a long way toward selling me on the whole "northern European medieval fantasy" setting. Beyond that, the music itself is gorgeous and fits the serious and often dark atmosphere of the game. I've yet to grow tired of it, despite my many hours spent hunting monsters and searching for Ciri.
Have you heard...
The Legend of Legacy OST
Does Hamauzu turn Legend of Legacy's soundtrack legendary?
I honestly wasn't sure what to expect from this soundtrack. I absolutely love Falcom's music in the Ys series, but had a very lukewarm reaction to Trails in the Sky FC, which was — at the time — the only Kiseki game on Western shores. Of course, different composers means different music, but I still wasn't sure whether Trails of Cold Steel would stick closer to the older Kiseki games or blaze a new path just like Ys protagonist Adol. The answer is "kind of both." The battle themes are almost all universally awesome and the most Ys-like music on the soundtrack — which is great because if there's one place you should get pumped up, it's in battle. The town themes and event music are more subdued and Kiseki-like by comparison, but there's a catchiness to just about every piece that endears me to it in a way that Trails in the Sky sadly never managed to do. And the exploration and dungeon themes are some of the best I've heard all year — the strings in some of the tracks are particularly gorgeous. In short, I fell in love with the music just as quickly as I fell in love with the characters, and I can't wait to hear more from both when the sequel comes out sometime this year (hopefully sooner rather than later).
I'm a big fan of Hiroyuki Sawano's blend of electronic pop and symphonic music. He can do epic like no one else, and he's also got a knack for writing vocal pieces — lyrics...not so much, but I tend to focus more on melodies so they bother me less. As you might expect, there are a lot of bombastic tunes and a surprising amount of vocals in the Xenoblade Chronicles X soundtrack, and I think it's brilliant. The music is incredibly catchy; I've been humming and singing along as I play the game, and its infectious energy invites you to dash out into the wide world of Mira alongside the beat. The five main continents and your base of operations, NLA, all have distinct feels to them thanks in part to the music, and combat tunes like "Uncontrollable" really get the blood pumping as you tackle tough enemies. There's also a selection of piano arrangements and other quieter pieces, so if you're at all worried about whether Sawano has range, don't be. The style of the soundtrack is drastically different from that of the first Xenoblade, but then again, the game itself is pretty different too, so I think the change makes a lot of sense. And it's kind of hard to complain when you've got things like "Theme X" (one of the most awesome pieces of music I've ever heard in an RPG) to listen to.
Also See Our Review:
Xenoblade [Chronicles] X OST Review
Have you heard...
Prescription for Sleep: Lullabies of Mana
GENTLE LOVE reminds us in this album that sometimes you have to slow down and enjoy the music...
Everyone knows that I'm a huge fan of Final Fantasy XII. The game and its soundtrack are my favorites in the series, and I will staunchly defend both against naysayers. So when I declare that the music in Final Fantasy XIV: Heavensward is the thematic successor to the greatness that is FFXII's soundtrack, you know just how highly I regard it. I say thematic in the sense that both XII and Heavensward's soundtracks establish strong themes and then spend a great deal of time playing with them, weaving them in and out of different arrangements to create pieces that feel more like the movements of a symphony than a collection of disparate tracks. My favorite piece on the soundtrack, which actually hasn't been officially released yet and therefore has no name, is actually referenced in no fewer than five other tracks, and the other major themes get similar treatment. Even the dungeon music is treated thematically; every area features at least one dungeon, and that dungeon features an arrangement of the theme that plays in the area where the dungeon is set. The end result is a soundtrack that feels incredibly connected from start to finish. Like a good movie score, you can hear how it develops as your adventure progresses, and by the end of the main story, the various different themes come together in really beautiful ways. Even if you have no interest in the game, do yourself a favor and give the soundtrack a listen. I guarantee you won't regret it.
I wasn't super crazy about the concept of Dancing All Night at first, but I found myself really getting into it once I started playing. It was great to reunite with the Persona 4 cast and watch them solve another mystery together, but the music also played a big part in boosting my interest. The soundtrack is comprised mostly of remixes from Persona 4 and its various spin-offs, and while some of them are just okay, a lot of them are excellent — so much so that I found myself running stages in Free Dance mode multiple times, even on harder difficulties, just to jam out to the beat. And yes, Chie is still the best (just in case you were wondering).