Haven Original Soundtrack
Where the heck did this come from? I hadn’t heard of Haven until its appearances in summer 2020’s many virtual game showcases, and quickly became entranced by the setting and visual style. The music seemed pretty nice too, but it wasn’t until I bought Danger’s full soundtrack that it really sunk its teeth into me. You want inspirational? It’s here. Gorgeous ambiance? Check. Low-key trance? Is that a thing? I dunno, but Danger’s got you covered. After listening several times, I knew an immense amount of care went into this soundtrack—and that was before I realized that every single song file has its own cover art. Who… who does that? Simply incredible. Available on Bandcamp.
SQUARE ENIX Chill Out Arrangement Tracks – AROUND 80’s MIX
I like to think that some folks at Square Enix took notice of the wildly popular lo-fi channels out there like Homework Radio and ChilledCow and wanted to get in on the scene. And then, this “Around 80’s” collection of classic Final Fantasy and SaGa music came about. These songs are the stuff of legend in the RPG scene, and that they can still be adapted in new ways over 30 years later is a testament to their masterful composition. I’m hoping the “Around 80’s Mix” label is meant to denote the first in a series because I would be first in the metaphorical line for an “Around 90’s” edition.
Final Fantasy VII Remake Original Soundtrack
I wouldn’t say Final Fantasy VII‘s soundtrack is my favorite in the series because I honestly have too many favorites to want to rank them, but wow did Nobuo Uematsu compose some wonderful stuff. While we (perhaps too frequently) hear that song by itself, the rest of the soundtrack shouldn’t be overlooked. Wonderful character themes, an iconic main theme, one of my favorite villainous group themes, and more make for a great soundtrack. And the new arrangements in Remake… they take this music somewhere new, different, yet immediately familiar. The first time I heard the new rendition of Tifa’s Theme, I could only think, “I’m home.” Only a very select number of games/songs could evoke that kind of reaction, and this one did it.
Paradise Killer Original Soundtrack
In a year of awards where I have an album that literally has “80’s” in its title, what is the most 1980s music going on? Barry “Epoch” Topping’s … well, killer soundtrack to Paradise Killer. If I was allowed to swear on this website, the most straightforward description that comes to mind is “fly as f*ck.” I don’t even like to rely on swear words in my vocabulary, but there is a time and a place for describing something as “fly as f*ck,” and you know what? Paradise Killer‘s music is just that. From the opening song, “Paradise (Stay Forever),” this music grabbed me and under no circumstances will it let me go. Get it on Bandcamp.
Ciel Fledge Original Soundtrack
Sometimes jazzy, sometimes funky, occasionally brassy, and always city-pop-y, Jasmine Cooper delivers a thoroughly enjoyable listen for perhaps the only visual novel/adventure game with a subtitle of “A Daughter Raising Simulator” that seems pretty darn wholesome. I haven’t even played Ciel Fledge yet myself, but you don’t need to have played it to enjoy the music. Check it out on Bandcamp.
Coffee Talk Original Soundtracks!
My soundtrack of 2020. Final Fantasy VII Remake offers amazing arrangements, Paradise Killer and Haven slapped me across the face with how shockingly upbeat and amazing they were, but I listened to Coffee Talk dozens of times over. Hell, in 2019, I would just loop the two songs by Andrew Jeremy that were released before the game. An incredibly chill narrative visual novel, Coffee Talk released before we all had to stay inside and seek positive mental health activities. Still, it’s not an exaggeration to say the soundtrack has been a boon for me this year and a frequent go-to for work music or simply relaxation. You can buy it on many storefronts and stream on Spotify, if that’s your thing.
There are further memorable musical moments of the year for me, so here are some quick hits to take us out:
Favorite Musical Comeback: Rhythm Encounter
I can’t possibly articulate how much I longed to bring back this show, but to say this: The shiny new album artwork we debuted with the comeback episode in September? I originally designed that in 2018. I was ready.
Favorite Indie Game Soundtrack Featuring Sammus: Ikenfell
Really, everything on Ikenfell is wonderful. aivi & surasshu are musical masters, and I’ve been a fan for 6+ years. The fact that Sammus (and other great vocalists) made surprise (to me) appearances on the character songs elevated this album even higher.
Favorite FFXIV Collection: Final Fantasy XIV: Shadowbringers – EP2
This EP has five tracks. One is perhaps the last appearance of Final Fantasy III‘s “Eternal Wind” in Shadowbringers: a touching, introspective piece that helps wrap up a tale years in the making. But it’s “To the Edge” that has not left my head for months. This song accents the (second) final climactic battle in Shadowbringers‘ main story, and it is just so damn epic and moving. Nothing less would have sufficed for a battle of this caliber (massive spoilers await you if you click that link). I fell more in love once I read the official lyrics, and then these fan-annotated ones… well, let’s just say it was a rabbit hole I was happy to fall into.
Favorite Childhood Throwback Listen: Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening OST (2020)
Ah, Link’s Awakening. A completely new presentation hides a shockingly faithful remake that brought just as much joy to me today as it did 26 years prior. The game released in 2019, but the soundtrack hit in March 2020, so it counts! That the soundtrack also rectified the lack of an official soundtrack for the Game Boy original by bundling them together was the icing on the cake.