Growing up, I never appreciated orchestral music. It’d be played at school or come on the television and my immediate reaction would be “boring.” Like many things I thought I knew as a teenager, I was so, so wrong. The Videri String Quartet’s rendition of these famous game scores is proof of that. Portals is a collection of brilliant pieces played beautifully. So much so, that the new arrangement of many of these tracks feels natural, like they should have always been this way.
The album kicks off with the lively sounds of the Super Mario Bros theme. As one of the most famous pieces of video game music, there’s perhaps no surprise it was chosen, but, as perfectly as the sound of the strings match the music, I feel it would have better suited a final position on the track list, as it seems a bit out of place with the other more emotional music that follows.
For anyone who has played Final Fantasy X (and possibly even those of you who haven’t), To Zanarkand is always stirring to hear. It is performed beautifully here, and combined with the Journey Medley that succeeds it, it’s an emotional ten minutes. The soundtrack of Journey happens to be one of my favourites, and the medley performed here is a selection of the best tracks. The piece that opens the medley, and the theme music of Journey, “Nascence,” is an amazing piece of work.
Skyward Sword’s Ballad of the Goddess opens with plucking strings, reminiscent of Zelda’s lyre from the game. It caught me by surprise, and I immediately pictured her standing in Skyloft and playing. I had similar thoughts about the Final Fantasy VII Suite, which, at fourteen minutes in length from the opening theme to the battle music, is a sort of musical summary of the game. I could picture the events of the story as the music played, which says much for the quality of the performances.
Green Hill Zone, Working Together and The Mightiest of Pirates provide a lighter tone for the album. The fast-paced playing in Green Hill Zone suits Sonic’s nature. It has a light and fluffy feel to it that reminded me of the fun older Sonic games had that later ones don’t seem to capture. In The Mightiest of Pirates, the strings build a high-seas musical adventure that Guybrush would be proud of. Mmm, SCUMM. Working Together wasn’t the piece I expected to have been chosen from Kingdom Hearts (in fact, I couldn’t remember it all that well), but it fits in perfectly with the rest of the music. To end the album, the Halo Medley left me on a thoughtful note, and I was surprised by how well the strings suited it.
Portals is the debut album of the Videri String Quartet, and they have shown great experience with their selection of tracks and masterful performances. Considering the quality and musicianship shown here, I hope we hear more from them soon.