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‘Suikoden II’ OST Review, Part 2

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(continued from Part I of the review)

After hearing the opening, I again found myself shaking my head at being so out of touch with such works.  Just listening to the Suikoden II OST places it extremely high on my preferred VGM list—I only wish that I could play the actual game without spending ridiculous amounts of money (one day…!).  Regardless, however, there is, as I’ve said before, something to be said about loving a game OST without having played the game itself.   Higashino’s work on Suikoden II is so involved and so perfect for a game that I am pretty content just imagining what would be happening on-screen during a particular tune and determining how that fits in the greater context of the musical body of work.

And what a body of work it is!  I listened to the OST via a YouTube channel by a user that just uploads full video game soundtracksSuikoden II has 105 tracks in its playlist; if one looks at the list of games the number of tracks each one has, s/he will find that there are few (out of this relatively small sample size) that even come close to 105.  Regardless of length of the tracks, that’s 105 different ideas for a single game.  Including length, if one roughly calculates that the average track is two minutes long, that’s about three and a half hours of music alone.  I don’t care if the second half of most of the tracks is a loop – because, let’s face it, making something that is enjoyable to listen to after five loops is worth giving the gimmie – this is a lot of music.

Thinking about the quantity of music leads me to think about Suikoden II versus modern OSTs.  Journey, for instance, has 18 tracks that total an hour.  The difference is, Journey is an hour of non-looping music and has an average track length of 3:25; therefore, one may say that Journey has more ideas within a particular track – meaning that composer Austin Wintory took an idea and developed it over a large span of time coinciding with other ideas – while Suikoden II has an impressively robust number of raw ideas.  That’s just interesting to consider, looking at classic versus modern soundtracks and thinking about approaching composing for games.

What’s even more impressive about the soundtrack having so many raw ideas is that Higashino’s approach to Suikoden II was clearly not a linear one.  There’s such a variety in the soundtrack that the listener will be surprised from one track to the next due simply to the fact that s/he won’t be able to anticipate what kind of sound the next tune will have.  Some soundtracks might be able to be categorized into an everyday genre (i.e., electronic, rock, ambient), but this one is one of those that fall strictly under the blanket of “VGM.”  The listener will find that she wrote everything from orchestral music to Mitsuda-like folk songs and jigs to more traditional “classical” pieces to ambient abstractions.  One of the best things about it is, though, that Higashino makes her own mark and creates an OST that is distinct among its peers.

Let’s take a look at some of the elements and themes that one will find within the OST:

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VGM Review #3: “Halo” OST, Part 1

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To be honest, the Halo obsession has always been one that is lost on me. I’ve played it multiplayer before and I’ve done a very tiny bit of the single player campaign in the both the first and second games (I was at a friend’s house), but I’ve never fallen victim to the hype. In fact, as far as FPS’s are concerned, I’m a fan of Unreal Tournament. Therefore, I’ve always seen Halo as just that: hype.

Saying that may enrage you—I understand. I’m not saying it’s bad or anything of the sort. In fact, I feel like I’m a little under-qualified to judge since FPS’s aren’t my thing. Lots of people kill for them and play Halo and Call of Duty as many hours as I spend at work each week. Those people have a great potential to be better judges than I. Though I may have a personal preference, I haven’t spent enough time ingesting these games to know what I really like about them and really don’t. All I know is that my time playing Halo did not seem special and did not leave me wanting to play more.

Regardless of my opinions on the game itself, I knew that I would have to visit its soundtrack. Fans of the game, whether large or small, covet what composers Martin O’Donnell and Michael Salvatori have done. I had never paid much attention to the soundtrack, though, and knew from the beginning that I should listen to and review it because of the high praise it’s received. At the very least I knew that I would have to review the main theme because people barely mention Halo without referring to that iconic track.

Before I get to the main theme, I’m going to start with the “Opening Suite.” I first listened to the OST in order, and that’s the first track I ran into.

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