My love of classical music has been with my for as long as my passion for writing has been. Granted, there have been times when I have felt my desire to listen to Handel or Rachmaninov has alienated some of my hardcore metal listening friends but if my life has taught me anything, it’s that true friends stick by you, regardless of your tastes.
Which is why I will always be thankful to the friend who introduced me to this album. The London Philharmonic Orchestra playing some of the most iconic and beautiful music ever to grace a video game.
Now, video games are (in)famous for many things but music has sometimes been overlooked as an aspect of video games. Indeed, during my time writing the History of Music in Video Games I discovered that the music genre for video games, whilst being something that people were deeply passionate about, has only just started to gain the recognition it deserves. And with this album, I’m hoping that more people will not only take video games more seriously, but also the wonderful music held within…
There are some tracks on this album (the first one for instance) which I do not recognise due to never having played the original game but simply because you do not recognise the music does not mean you cannot appreciate it. Indeed, I’d wager that some members of the ‘London Phil’ themselves were ignorant to some of this music before playing it for this album.
Moving into the opening track, Muse from Advent Rising – now this was a game I never played when it was released back in 2005 so listening to this track from the perspective of an outsider was wonderful, it’s peaceful and almost melodic tones reminded me of Barbers Adagio, which is no bad thing!
We now have a timeless classic and possibly the most ‘remastered’ song in video game history – The Legend of Zelda. Here we find the London Philharmonic taking us through several tunes from the game, all seamlessly blending into a touching journey through the Zelda world. Even if we have all heard this particular tune potentially millions of times before, it’s so nice to hear it being played by such a renowned group.
Surprisingly, I also don’t remember the actual theme tune from Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 though whilst vaguely familiar it does not sit in my mind as one of those instantly recognisable tunes. Regardless of this the rendition of this theme and also the Battlefield 2 theme are hauntingly powerful.
Next up we have Angry Birds and quite possibly the last video game in the world known for its contribution to music. I’m not saying that the music in Angry Birds is bad, it’s exactly what it needs to be for an iOS game, simple, catchy and not too annoying and whilst the version played by the London Philharmonic is superb beyond doubt. There remains something decidedly ‘wasted’ in its inclusion in this album, imagine if you hired Patrick Stewart to recite your shopping list, it would be powerful – certainly – but you wouldn’t be able to escape the feeling there would be so many more greater uses for his voice.
The choice to include two different Final Fantasy songs in this album and making neither of them One Winged Angel was a controversial decision for fans and you can find countless pages of forum posts online stating that the decision was wrong. I’m here to inform everybody who thinks like this that you are wrong, there is no room for ‘you might be wrong’ you are simply wrong. Whilt One Winged Angel is a great track (in moderation) we as gamers and music fans have heard it or it’s remastered versions literally tens of thousands of times and for a franchise which has crafted a completely new genre of music – I feel that taking two completely different – almost unsung heros – of composer Nobuo Uematsu’s work is a stroke of genius.
As with nearly all ‘Greatest Video Game Music’ collections, special mentions must naturally go to games such as Tetris, which in this completion gets a unique intro, fooling the listener into a false sense of security before breaking into the classic Russian folk tune. Also featuring are Super Mario and one of the tunes from Super Mario Galaxy (unfortunately I am still to play this game) and whilst being a highly enjoyable song my focus was more on the Super Mario Bros. tune which featured a wonderful collection of the different tunes from the game all rendered together with beautiful walkthrough of harmonic sounds.
Also finding their way onto this illustrious album are the main themes for Metal Gear Solid: Sons of Liberty and the song One Final Effort from Halo 3. Both of these songs inspire such emotions of near-patriotism when you hear them in the game, they sometimes inspire you to perform a perfect run through of a certain level or really tug at your heartstrings in a touching cutscene but both of these songs are easily joint second place for my best song of this album.
Interestingly, music from titles such as Bioshock and Fallout also make their elegant way onto this album. Given that I do not fully recall any memorable music from these games it pleases me to hear these games paid tribute to by the London Philharmonic.
So this album has proved a few things during my time with it. It has proved that there is a niche audience for video game fans who greatly enjoy classical music (I’m not the only one) it’s proved that even given the unlikely choice of the Angry Birds theme, certain groups such as the London Philharmonic Orchestra can make anything sound beautiful but most of all it has proved that music in video games has come so far since the early sonar blip in Pong. I can hardly wait to see what the next few years brings.