The “Quintet Vibes” Award:
Actraiser Original Soundtrack and Symphonic Suite and the Actraiser Renaissance soundtrack
Quintet soundtracks have always captured my imagination with their moody vibes and surprising versatility–or not so surprising given Quintet’s penchant for playing with genre and including multiple game styles within a single game. You need a musical range to match that. Luckily for me, it’s been an incredibly bountiful year with not only one, but TWO Actraiser albums and one sudden surprise remake (!?!). Both albums appear here because I believe they’re best enjoyed together to understand the scope of this soundtrack as a whole. The Actraiser Original Soundtrack and Symphonic Suite is a beautiful presentation of Yuzo Koshiro’s original work, translating it into a beautiful orchestral live performance. The Renaissance soundtrack was an opportunity for him to make his work match his original vision through the use of improved technology. All of it is worthwhile quasi-Baroque goodness.
The “Far from the Closet Studio” Award:
Black Materia: The Remake
I really enjoy Mega Ran’s work, and a large part of that is due to the original Black Materia album. It’s the perfect introduction to an entire category of music, and it will always have a place in my heart. I got emotional and nostalgic hearing about this new album the way I thought I would get nostalgic and emotional about Final Fantasy VII Remake itself. Listening to the sleek production and all the care that went into this project made me completely joyful at Mega Ran’s success and growth (including writing books!). At the same time, listening to the updates and increased urgency about world and societal issues in tracks like “Cries of the Planet” chilled me to the core. Even if there’s no “Tifa’s Theme” and some artists from the original were not able to return, this version stands on its own.
The “Positive Impact” Award:
Okay, I have to admit I have a weakness for relaxing music–including nature sounds. Maybe it’s because of my long-standing yoga habit. But do you know what I like even more than that? Relaxing VGM that benefits the Rainforest Trust. Heartwood is a project by Pixel Mixers and GameGrooves who have brought a variety of artists together to arrange forest themes, with 100% of the proceeds going to this charitable cause. Each mix is unique, yet it all comes together to form a cohesive, relaxing whole that represents its natural theme well. The whole thing is slightly string-heavy and covers titles from Donkey Kong Country to Xenoblade Chronicles, Chrono Cross, Ys VI, and more. And who doesn’t need relaxing music right now? Learn more about the album on the Pixel Mixers website.
My Favorite Prescription for Sleep Album:
Prescription for Sleep: Stardew Valley
Not only are the arrangements on this album breathtaking, it’s also notable because it’s a Prescription for Sleep album where Gentle Love collaborated with the original composer (ConcernedApe). I’ve listened to more than a few of these albums, and this is the one I keep coming back to. The focus on the themes for each seasons is perfect and it’s the one that, for me, is closest to achieving that desired sense of cozy, safe sleep. Don’t miss our review and interview with the musicians on this album, too.