AW's VGM Collection

By theaterofsalvation theaterofsalvation
updated 6 days ago

While my interest in playing video games has faded in recent years that doesn't mean I don't enjoy listening to a rousing good piece of video game music. I originally started collecting soundtracks in 2006 and have come across some great albums. Below you'll find what I have on hand, some information about each album, tips for tracking them down and some info on my personal tastes.

Eastern Vs Western
As you read through the list you'll probably notice that soundtracks from Japanese games/composers outnumber those from western countries like the Americas and Europe. This is far from a coincidence as I generally enjoyed Japanese developed games more than their western counterparts back when I was playing games. There are plenty of exceptions to this trend, but soundtracks for Western games aren't as common, are sometimes hard to procure because of their age/rarity or are released digitally.

Orchestration and Choirs: The Staples Easy Button
In general I try to avoid soundtracks that make use of mass amounts of orchestration or choir singing/chanting. While it may seem to be a shortsighted point of view, too many soundtracks (many of them from the west) attempt to emulate scores from Hollywood and it's just a big turn off for me. This doesn't mean I'm against this kind of music entirely, but it comes across as a cheap and easy way to make anything sound epic. I'm more interested in the composer that can do that without leaning on this worn and tired crutch.

Orchestral Concerts and Nobuo Uematsu
A subject where I'll likely ruffle a few feathers, I fail understand the popularity of live, orchestral performances of video game music like Distant Worlds. I don't believe that a mass orchestra performing an over-layered rendition of a song I'm fine with in its original, in-game incarnation makes it "better." Additionally, while I'm not looking to put Nobuo Uematsu down, I feel these shows pay a little too much attention to his output. That said, the appeal remains a mystery to me so I won't be adding these releases to my collection.

Arrange Albums
While you will certainly find some arrange albums below that contain remixes of tracks from various soundtracks, the truth is I'm often at odds with these releases. No, I'm not turned off to the point that I avoid these releases on principle, but I tend to gravitate towards only a small handful of pieces (usually one or two tracks) on these discs instead of enjoying everything that comes up to the plate on them. There are some exceptions to this, but those exceptions where my feelings differ are few and far between.

Ambient Tunes: Not My Thing
This kind of goes hand-and-hand with the section on orchestration directly above, only it's nowhere as pronounced. I don't have a pointed issue with ambient pieces, in fact there are some ambient numbers I absolutely adore, but on the whole I'm not particularly crazy when an entire soundtrack consists of this type of composition. No doubt you'll find releases below that include pieces of this nature, just be aware that this style doesn't draw me in as much as it does others.

Physical Vs Digital
For the most part I'm going to keep the additions to this list to albums I obtain a physical release for. Given the website this list is posted on it's probably no surprise that I'm a proponent of physical media. However, if those reading are interested in the music and just want to go digital I understand that. Having physical copies makes since from a collector standpoint but if you just want the music without the overhead I'd understand why you'd choose the latter.

Original Vs Reprint
To be honest I'm not a big stickler on having or obtaining an original print of a given soundtrack unless there is something that's unique to the original. For example, I think most of the Squaresoft / Square Enix soundtracks I have are the re-prints (Legend of Mana is an exception since I wanted the slipcase) but then on the flip side I wanted the original the Star Ocean: The Second Story soundtrack since I grew up with the PS1 original and like the game's original namesake more than the rebranded one on the PSP.

The OBI And Completeness
A subject I've had some rather recent reversals in, it probably goes without saying that I try to obtain most of my albums in the best condition possible. Getting albums in complete & pristine condition is relatively easy when you're dealing with the more inexpensive items; however, this becomes harder and harder to do (and justify) with rarer items. Seriously, when the price of an album *doubles* from $400 to $800 just because the later has the OBI, you start to understand why one may ditch their obsessive compulsion for complete albums. When you're the one ponying up the cash you can start to see why one would make concessions here and there.

Lossy Vs Lossless
When recording music to my computer I just convert to mp3. I'm far from being any kind of audiophile and I don't really see the point of lossless formats. I'm willing to take a small hit in fidelity for a smaller file size but not the opposite. As such, please DO NOT ask me for lossless rips of the albums below. Given that most of these albums have been uploaded to YouTube there is next to no reason to share files in an effort to sample things these days.

Old Vs New
As the beginning of this intro states, I've kind of lost interest in games themselves and haven't played many games beyond the sixth generation of hardware (PS2, etc.) so I wouldn't expect music from more recent games to appear on this list. As much as I hate the terminology and negativity that surrounds it I'm more of a retro gamer and the small mound of games I've retained reflects this. This doesn't mean that I automatically feel that older games are better per say, just that I prefer them over what's coming out these days.

The Usual Suspects
Compared to some other collectors I've met over the years, I have to point out my collection is full of "typical suspects" releases; in other words, those reading this list will be familiar with *most* of these games. I haven't stumbled into a whole lot of "off the beaten path" gems as I'd like, but there are only so many hours in the day. This being said, as of 2018 I've pretty much obtained all the no-brainer additions, so I'm going to have to be more adventurous in what I attempt to listen to in the future.

Context Killer?
As you will notice down below, there are several soundtracks were I claim I won't review said album until I've heard the music within the confines of the game itself. This is because - as much as I hate to admit it - knowing the in-game context of each piece of music is important in the scheme of things a significant amount of the time. Of course, this isn't always the case (the biggest example of context NOT playing any role in my enjoyment of a album's music would be the Lost Child discs) but knowing how a piece of so-so music is used can be the missing piece of the puzzle that upgrades it to a favorite. It's difficult to explain, but in saying this I want to point our while context is important to me, it's obviously a bit too important to me. Unfortunately, this situation is what it is.

Chit-chat & Questions
If you have any questions about any of these albums, have a question about one of my opinions or would just want to talk about video game music in general, feel free to contact me through Discogs. However, again, please do not contact me for music files (I'm assuming asking this of other users is against Discogs terms of service anyway) or to ask me if I'm interested in selling a particular album. If an album is in my collection you can bet it's there for a reason.

  1. Motoi Sakuraba - Baten Kaitos II: Hajimari no Tsubasa to Kamigami no Shishi Original Soundtrack

    Note: Please be aware I will not be reviewing the soundtrack for Baten Kaitos II (Baten Kaitos Origins) until I watch a complete play-though of the game in order to gain context of the various pieces contained within these discs. Without this knowledge I cannot write a very thorough (or honest) overview of Sakuraba's compositions. If you're wondering why I bought it if this is the case, the standard battle theme "The Valedictory Elegy" was reason enough in my book.

  2. Yuko Takehara - Breath of Fire II -使命の子-

    2 For Sale from $83.11


    > Overall Thoughts
    In a certain sense it's hard to explain how Capcom's Breath of Fire II ended up becoming such an important game to me. Granted it was one of the first RPGs I ever played but it's not hard to see how other products, even products that debuted during its own time, outgunned it. Despite that it still managed to worm its way into my heart, which sounds like a seriously frightening medical condition :(

    However "outgunned" is exactly how I would describe Yuko Takahara's work in Breath of Fire II. The soundtrack is an improvement over the one penned for the original game (and the synth quality is much more streamlined this time around) but when listening to her work outside the scope of the game it simply doesn't have the clout to keep up with other, all encompassing role-playing scores. Because of this and my belief that Breath of Fire II is somewhat similar to Final Fantasy VI in that it is a very character driven game (seriously, think about it) I often refer to Breath of Fire II and its elements as "the poor man's Final Fantasy VI."

    Okay, now I'll admit that is not a complement in any way, shape or form but I think it does summarize the situation that the game finds itself in. Take away the great Capcom art, the storyline that is deliciously critical of organized religion (and the NPCs that strangely parallel the actions of people of real-life faiths) and the rock themes used for boss battles and you have a rather textbook game if there ever was one. Heck, even with those things Breath of Fire II is still pretty basic but the fact remains that it worked and had a profound effect on me as a player back in the SNES days.

    > What You Should Know
    At one disc Breath of Fire II -The Destined Child- (SRCL-3119) only contains about half of the game's music. What's ironic about this is the 2006 release of the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box (which includes the music of Breath of Fire II) proves that *most* of the game's music would have fit on one CD despite it being on two CDs in that collection. The other important thing is the volume of the tracks on this CD is lower than the rendition on the Special Box but the fade outs on this album are quicker and more precise. Even crazier is the fact that Capcom still missed out on recording certain tracks (e.g. "Holy") from this game the second time around. That said, not including "Wanderer" on the one disc rendition will boggle me until my dying day.

    > Looking For a Copy?
    As you'd probably expect for an album released in 1995 the original rendition of the Breath of Fire II soundtrack is long out of print. Copies are far from common and finding a copy that's in good condition and complete can be a challenge. I can personally attest to this because the first, incomplete copy I had didn't include the OBI. Because of this may you may opt to bypass it and pick up the Original Soundtrack Special Box to obtain the missing tracks and the benefit of the higher recording volume, but even that has become a problem in and of itself in recent years. Most retailers sold their last remaining copies of the Special Box long ago and now jump at the chance to sell second hand copies at two or three times the original price. When you consider that the box debuted at around $150 it's a pretty significant mark up only the most die hard fans will break down and pay.

    > Who should pick this up?
    When it comes to the original, one disc version of the Breath of Fire II soundtrack only the biggest fans of the game (or Yuko Takehara) should take up the challenge of finding a copy. While it's true that as a release it is not really sought after (like some of the later soundtracks on this list) it is uncommon, especially on this side of the pond. Unfortunately, I kind of have to say the same for the Original Soundtrack Special Box as well given how its price has exploded in recent years but in that case you're getting five soundtracks instead of one. Still, I don't think that would make that $500 to $600 dollar pill any easier to swallow.

  3. Various - Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box


    > Overall Thoughts
    Born out of the atonement that the Mega Man and Mega Man X boxes provided their given franchises in 2002 and 2003 the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box seeks to correct similar injustices that befell yet another beloved Capcom property. Containing the soundtracks to Breath of Fire, Breath of Fire II, Breath of Fire III, Breath of Fire IV and Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter, it's an impressive product whose attractiveness is, somewhat ironically, limited by its gargantuan size and availability.

    > Breath of Fire
    Unlike the last time I sat down and wrote something about the Breath of Fire section of the Special Box I now have the experience of playing the actual game to back up my opinion. The bad news is the game didn't really alter my opinion that the soundtrack is a little overbearing with its regal flavor and synth quality. With four (well-known) composers backing this one I was expecting more but to ignore its importance in the scheme of things (the epic vibe cultivated here is the basis for Yuko Takehara's work for the second game) would be foolish considering this is its first and only appearance on officially licensed CDs.

    > Breath of Fire II
    As stated above Yuko Takehara's work on Breath of Fire II is rather important when it comes to my past experience with the game, but it has a hard time standing up to it contemporaries in the genre. Still, the most important thing about the soundtrack is that it carries on the sound forged in the first game because that sound is eventually discarded in the following games due to the initiatives of Akari Kaida and Yoshino Aoki.

    > Breath of Fire III
    In video game music circles Breath of Fire III is pretty famous in that it gives the middle finger to the regal sound of its predecessors in its attempt to prove that a jazz oriented score can define a role-playing game. Most video game music enthusiasts have little to no problem eating up this vision of Akari Kaida and Yoshino Aoki's yet most people who reviewed the game back when it was released weren't so welcoming. As for me? I'm a little on the skeptical side with this one even though I'll admit there are some great tracks here. The main problem is many tracks are very situational and taking them out of context doesn't do them the biggest favor. In the end I don't think Breath of Fire III proves that a jazz oriented score is capable of depicting the world in an RPG but proves it can survive the attempt.

    > Breath of Fire IV
    Co-composer Yoshino Aoki from Breath of Fire III returns to compose the music for the fourth Breath of Fire. As if things weren't complicated enough already, Aoki ambitions take the series' music in even more diverse directions with the addition of ambient themes. The contrast between the western and eastern flavors used to portray the game's protagonist and antagonist is well executed but does little to hide how dry the game's narrative is. Because the music reminds me of one of the biggest issues I have with the game it's not an experience I revisit too often even though there is nothing overtly wrong with it.

    > Breath of Fire: Dragon Quarter
    In all seriousness I lost count of how many revisions this blurb on Dragon Quarter's music has seen over the years. Originally, I said it would have been a better option to omit this score from this box and re-release the original, standalone soundtrack instead because it's not composed by a in-house Capcom composer and the game is vastly different than the four that came before it. Those thoughts of mine still hold true to some degree but I do want to admit that Hitoshi Sakimoto music is one of those soundtracks that I can appreciate the quality of, but without playing the game I'm hopelessly lost when it comes to having a desire to listen to it. A soundtrack I'll probably never love even though it deserves it, the fact I have a complicated relationship with yet another Sakimoto score is far from shocking.

    > What You Should Know
    This eleven disc behemoth (CPCA-10146~56) still doesn't contain *all* the franchise's music. There are still tracks omitted from the first three soundtracks slight as they may be. The remaining two soundtracks (IV and Dragon Quarter) are complete as they are carbon copy reproductions of their original soundtracks. Breath of Fire II also contains a higher recording volume and longer fade outs than the original 1995 pressing.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    In updating this list from its original incarnation this is one of the more painful entries to write. When I wrote this you could actually find new copies of the Breath of Fire Original Soundtrack Special Box for sale. That is no longer the case. Well, I'm sure someone out there has a sealed copy squirreled away but I could only imagine how much they would want for it. Used copies aren't much better with many retailers wanting $500 to $600 for them which is, let's be honest, a bit insane.

    > Who should pick this up?
    Given its price on the secondary market these days it's hard to recommend the Original Soundtrack Special Box to anyone. However, to be fair, I found it hard to recommend the box even back when it was at the original $150~160. Why? I can't even begin to deny that there are some great tunes within this set yet at the same time there is just so much material to sift through and a good chunk of that material is, in my opinion, better within the confines of its given game. So if you assume I'd only recommend this to the biggest Breath of Fire fans you are right on the money.

  4. Konami Kukeiha Club - Akumajo Dracula Best 2

    2 For Sale from $49.00


    > Overall Thoughts
    Despite being a big fan Castlevania, some may be caught off guard with the fact that the old-school Castlevania titles are kind of hit-and-miss with me. It really wasn't until 1991's Super Castlevania IV that the franchise really gained traction with me, although I didn't play any of these games prior to playing Symphony of the Night in 1998. Unsurprisingly, like many others, I was introduced to the franchise through its Metroidvania rebirth but went backwards to learn and play through its history. Most of the games included on this two-disc collection (Castlevania: The Adventure, Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge and Super Castlevania IV) offer up some of the most ambitious soundtracks for their given consoles/handhelds and some of my personal favorites.

    > Castlevania: The Adventure (Game Boy)
    Unlike when I originally wrote this list in 2012, I've played through (most) of Castlevania: The Adventure. Prior to this what I wrote in this section was based off the opinions of others and, to be honest, what I had written was pretty damn close to how I feel about the game having experienced it. Anyway, as most already know, Castlevania: The Adventure was met with a mixed reaction and the music, while respectable, is easily the weak link in this collection. Still, once presented with the music from the following two soundtracks it's easy to see why I would have such an opinion.

    > Castlevania II: Belmont's Revenge (Game Boy)
    Many players considered Belmont's Revenge to be a significant improvement over The Adventure, and this is another case where I happen to agree with the status quo. To be honest I'm not the biggest fan of old school Castlevania when it comes to gameplay, but this was one cartridge that was worth all the green I spent on it. However, this wasn't even the best part of the experience. I already had a high opinion of this soundtrack prior to playing the game, but hearing this music in context just heightened my opinion of it to the stratosphere. One of the best best 8-bit scores I can think of, the score for Belmont's Revenge deserves to be mentioned among the highlights of the original Game Boy with Capcom classics like Mega Man: Dr. Wily's Revenge, Mega Man V and even Hal Laboratory's Kirby's Dream Land.

    > Super Castlevania IV (Super Nintendo)
    Writing something for Super Castlevania IV's score is kind of tricky because when I originally wrote all this out I glossed over (i.e. completely forgot) to mention a rather significant part of my relationship with this score and game. I can't even begin to mention how impressive this progressive influenced soundtrack is, especially when I'm not the biggest fan of that kind of music (think Motoi Sakuraba here) but the problem is while I can easily boast about the score's quality this is one soundtrack I don't enjoy this out of its original context. Yeah, I know that doesn't make a whole hell of a lot of sense but I just have some trouble digesting this one outside the scope of the game for some reason. Because of this the score for Belemont's Revenge sneaks ahead when it comes to being my favorite offering on this set.

    > What You Should Know
    Much like the soundtrack for Castlevania: Curse of Darkness above there really is no catch when it comes to Demon Castle Dracula Best 2 (KICA-7902~3). You get three good (two of them outstanding) soundtracks in one package and there are no formatting issues like there is with first Dracula Best album. The only real thing to note is the original print (KICA-7506~7) has some artwork that was not transferred over to the reprint.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    While there are two pressings of Dracula Best 2, the album has been in print for a long time and it doesn't seem to be going anywhere anytime soon. Granted you'll pay more for an original print (as is usually the case with multiple prints) but there really is no reason to get an original unless it's a quirk in your personal collecting habits or you want access to additional artwork.

    > Who should pick this up?
    Given that Castlevania is a rather popular with gamers and video game music enthusiasts, I don't think you can go wrong with this one. It's easy to procure and offers up three different yet related experiences. The only thing I think that could limit its appeal is if younger listeners are only familiar with Metroidvania titles or the newer Mercury Stream entries and have had little exposure to the series' origins. That said, I'd hope that classic and quality compositions like these would transcend the advances in technology to those unfamiliar with them.

  5. 山根 ミチル* - 悪魔城ドラキュラ X ~月下の夜想曲 (Original Game Soundtrack)

    5 For Sale from $18.00


    > Overall Thoughts
    Easily one of the most popular soundtracks on this list, some may be caught off guard by my somewhat passe feelings towards this one. Now, I can't even begin to deny the impact that Symphony of the Night had on me, and how my friend and I were absolutely floored the first time we played the game at a friend's birthday party, but in recent years I've become tired of the hype train on this one in all respects. However, just because I'm a little bit jaded when it comes to Symphony doesn't mean I've lost respect for it. I still think it's a hell of game, that it's probably the best Metroidvania and that the soundtrack is very good, but when it comes to Michiru Yamane's music I can't help but feel that part of its allure was related to the leap in sound quality it represented in the early days of the PlayStation.

    Most people know that most of the early PS1 games didn't make full use of the console's sound capabilities. One of the most well-known examples of this is Final Fantasy VII which sacrificed some of its audio fidelity in order to have faster load times. To this day some people still complain about the midi in that game (if you really want to complain about it play the PC version unaltered) but did it hamper the impact of any of Nobuo Uematsu's pieces? (Psst. The answer is no.)

    Given that it wasn't a multi-disc role-playing game with full motion video out the ying-yang, Symphony of the Night had a lot more room to spare when it came to its audio and it definitely played that card to its maximum effect. Unfortunately, while it played its hand extremely well, this doesn't quite make up for some baffling decisions (did we really need to blare "Finale Toccata" through almost all of the inverse castle?), weak areas (I was never taken with most of the game's battle themes and if I was they wore thin) and the feelings I have the the score works better in-game than it does outside it these days. I understand most fans are going to disagree with this, but it kind of reinforces my belief that Yamane's work was bolstered by the technology more than some are willing to admit.

    > What You Should Know
    Given its age and popularity, I feel most people are going to be aware of what I'm going to write in this section, but I'll go over it in case they're not informed. The Akumajo Dracula X ~Gekka no Nocturne~ Original Game Soundtrack is one disc, so there wasn't any room for the pieces exclusive to the somewhat sloppy Sega Saturn port. The only way to obtain these pieces is the Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collections Box (GFCA-195~213) which is about a two-hundred dollar purchase. Additionally, there are a few small tracks on here that players of the PlayStation original might be unfamiliar with but that's because the events that trigger them are exclusive to the Japanese rendition of the game.

    Looking for a Copy?
    I'm probably sounding like a broken record at this point, but due to it's massive popularity it is very easy to find copies of the soundtrack for sale from a variety of outlets on the internet. All these years later and yes, the album is still in print. However, because the album is popular you should be on the lookout for bootlegs because with this being a fan favorite the pirates will certainly try and take advantage.

    Who should pick this up?
    This is probably one of the easiest albums on this list to recommend since the game has so many fans. If you enjoyed what you heard in the game this is a no-brainier. Physical copies don't tend to cost too much but generally run a little higher than most American CDs. There's also digital downloads available on clients like iTunes as well.

  6. Michiru Yamane - Castlevania Original Soundtrack

    1 For Sale from $84.91


    > Overall Thoughts
    As curious as it may sound I'm very eager to talk about Castlevania: Lament of Innocence as a game and a soundtrack. Those reading may question the amount of ammo I have in reserve for this but I've been turning thoughts about this game over and over in my head for the longest time and now I have an outlet. Anyway, my desire finally fulfilled, let's talk about this one!

    When it comes to Lament of Innocence as a game, am I the only one that feels that it's been somewhat forgotten? I'm not going to sit here and act like the game was ten out of ten material but when it comes to 3D Castlevania (a concept that has had somewhat of a checkered past) I can't help but feel that Lament largely succeeded. Of course, I say this mainly due to my belief that the first three-dimensional Castlevania games on the Nintendo 64 have aged poorly. I know comparing a PS2 game to a N64 game isn't entirely fair and that the "game X is better than game Y so people should remember game X more!" is a flimsy argument to make but the comparisons don't end there for me. Am I the only one who sees Lament of Innocence as an earlier version of the first game in the Lord of Shadows trilogy? The combat of both games is heavily steeped in the style of gameplay God of War made famous (yet ironically didn't create) but only one game remains true to it's origins while the other never had the ability to do that since it wasn't a Castlevania game when it was originally conceived.

    However, whether you believe the game is underrated or overrated, or that Lords of Shadow is as boring as watching paint dry, the main topic here is the music and like above there's a lot to be said.

    Castlevania: Lament of Innocence Original Soundtrack (Tracks 1-01 to 2-11)
    Perhaps more than any other soundtrack on this list the score for Lament of Innocence is divided upon itself. Unfortunately, unlike the few cases later on in this list where such division ends up becoming beneficial in this case it's not. The section of music that plays during actual gameplay (the tracks that are going to lure people into buying this soundtrack) are fine to great and all of them are at least competent when it comes to composition. It's the other subsection of music, the pieces used for the game's various cut scenes, that drops the ball. I'm not even going to mince words here: when it comes to tracks for story scenes Yamane can't compose her way out of a wet paper bag. A blunt way of putting it, yes, but this glaring weakness of hers managed to remain hidden all the years prior because of how the previous games were constructed.

    Arranged Tracks From Aria of Sorrow (Tracks 2-12 to 2-14)
    Coming from me this is particularly odd, but these three arranged tracks from Aria of Sorrow have only gotten better with age. I wasn't always a fan of these tracks and even questioned their inclusion (except "Holy Cross Obsessed by the Moon" which is based on one of my favorite tracks from the Aria soundtrack) but I now feel they're the best, tacked-on addition to this soundtrack. Regrettably, the same can't be said of...

    Another Tale From Castlevania (Tracks 2-15 to 2-23)
    Sloppy seconds anyone? These tracks have to be the most worthless additions to an already bloated soundtrack. It's almost as if they are here to help fill that second disc, but I'll elaborate more on this down below.

    > What You Should Know
    The paragraphs above essentially cover what you need to know about the Castlevania Original Soundtrack (GFCA-32~3). There's no annoying omissions here, but boy are the proceedings here bloated. There are a few things Konami could have done to trim the fat and make the album more inviting, one of the key pieces of evidence backing this theory being the existence of the Lament of Innocence Limited Edition Music Sampler that was released in 2003. Granted that sampler is missing some tracks I and others consider essential, but it lends credence to the fact that most of the area themes don't really benefit from the standard double loop since the compositions are lengthy to begin with.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    Considering I just repurchased this one I was surprised I didn't have trouble finding a copy, let alone a sealed copy. I say this because this soundtrack was released on the same day as the Curse of Darkness soundtrack was in 2005 and reserves of that soundtrack have dried up. However, you read that correctly, there was about a two year delay between the release of the game and the soundtrack. This means that the limited edition sampler mentioned above was the sole resource for Lament of Innocence music for a very significant period of time.

    > Who should pick this up?
    Castlevania fans are the obvious target of this one; however, I've found that even if people dislike Lament of Innocence as a game (blasphemy I know, j/k) they still tend to enjoy the music that Michiru Yamane wrote for it. That said, most of the people I know are still turned off by the mass of extras and struggles examplified by the cut scene pieces.

    ~ A Musical Aside: The Lament of Innocence Soundtrack in a Perfect World ~
    As strange as it sounds, Konami almost got the Lament of Innocence soundtrack right the second time it was produced. Lament's music was re-published as part of the
    Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collections Box (GFCA-195~213) in 2010. This one disc version of the soundtrack strips out almost every cut scene theme and focuses on the area and boss themes. This cut is more attractive in the literal since; however, because Konami didn't edit the tracks so they only play one time before the fade a lot of the smaller area themes got the shaft. While I can imagine some people being happy with the cut scene material being cut some of the smaller area themes I alluded to earlier have a lot of fans and their omission is disappointing. With a little more forethought it would be completely possible to create a one disc version of the soundtrack that pleases everybody and does the material worth doing justice justice.

  7. Michiru Yamane, Yuka Watanabe, Teshigawara - Akumajo-Dracula -Yami no juin- Original Soundtrack

    3 For Sale from $77.76


    > Overall Thoughts
    As undignified as it sounds for the beginning of a paragraph critiquing a product, I don't think I'll ever forget my time with Castlevania: Curse of Darkness. An extremely unpolished game if there ever was one, Curse of Darkness wasn't gloomy in the sense you'd expect a game in this franchise to be, it was gloomy in the sense that it had no real identity, that it borrowed its combat system from the rapidly multiplying Dynasty Warriors games and offered little else. However, as is usually the case, everything comes back to the concept of identity and my belief that Curse of Darkness had one of the meekest ones of any Castlevania game to date. However, for some reason, that didn't stop me from playing and enjoying the game.

    You may wonder what this has to do with the music Michiru Yamane crafted for the game. Well, the game's meek identity really crosses over to the soundtrack as well since the music in Curse of Darkness doesn't really leap out of the speakers like previous titles. Sure, there are some bombastic numbers like boss themes, but these were far from being the tracks that lured me into buying the soundtrack. In fact I was turned off by many of those numbers. No, there's another side of Castlevania music to be heard here. It's not really as memorable or as versatile as the classic Castlevania tunes we grew up with but given enough time it will pry at your subconscious and make you realize there is something (however puzzling it may be) to be heard here.

    > What You Should Know
    Surprising as it sounds, there isn't a catch-22 with the Curse of Darkness Original Soundtrack (GFCA-34~5) like there is with many of the other albums on this list. The tracks aren't cut short, almost all of them double loop, and there are no technical problems. The only real thing to be aware of is the fact that Michiru Yamane can't write cut scene music to save her life. I'm totally serious. This was a real problem on the Lament of Innocence soundtrack but here she somewhat hides it by incorporating some of the area themes into these pieces and makes them more digestible.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    I have to admit I was really surprised when I went to do the research for this section and I'm glad I took the time. I had planned to say that the album was readily available from several Japanese retailers, but it seems supplies of the album have dried up in recent years with many places listing it as out of print. However, I don't think this means you have to cough up a lot for it on the second hand market although I'm sure there are those who will try and take advantage. If purchasing second hand, make sure not to get it confused with the various, one-disc samplers of which there are a few. Additionally, you can also obtain a portion of this soundtrack by purchasing the Akumajo Dracula Best Music Collections Box (GFCA-195~213) but the track selection is very hit-and-miss.

    > Who should pick this up?
    Considering I've pretty much admitted that the music included here is somewhat second rate (even for Castlevania music) I can't recommend this one to anyone who is collecting and trying to obtain soundtracks of the highest quality. This one is for those who can find strengths in perceived faults and isn't overly critical of what they are hearing and buying. However, at the same time, I wouldn't go as far as to say this one is for risk-takers. Regardless of what kind of spin I try to put on it this one is probably for fans of the game like myself who still aren't sure why they even ended up liking the game to begin with.

  8. Michiru Yamane & Yasuhiro Ichihashi - Castlevania: Order Of Ecclesia Soundtrack

    2 For Sale from $30.00

    (337842 01)

    > Overall Thoughts
    A wretchedly titled, pre-order bonus from US retailers, most video game music fans know the Castlevania: Order Of Ecclesia Soundtrack is a soundtrack *sampler*, not a (the) full-fledged soundtrack to the Nintendo DS game. Despite that, this six track appetizer is much more common than the real Order of Ecclesia soundtrack that, in an amazing display of Konami's ineptitude and disregard towards collectors, was an insanely limited bonus only released in Japan. Seriously, if you want some sticker shock do a quick search and check out how much a standalone copy of that soundtrack sells for these days. Thanks Konami, your complete disdain towards not being dicks is just priceless!

    However, despite being a collector, I'm surprisingly fine with just owning this sampler as it contains my favorite track "Sorrow's Distortion." In all honesty I wasn't particularly impressed with the rest of the soundtrack but as long as I have access to the above piece written by Yasuhiro Ichihashi on physical media I'm a happy customer!

    > What You Should Know
    Touched on up above, the title of this "album" is very misleading. I could honestly see someone ordering this online (believing it to be the full-fledged soundtrack) and being dissapointed when they realize it's just a sampler. There's no real excuse for this as other, soundtrack oriented Castlevania pre-order bonuses are much more clear with what they offer.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    Despite being a pre-order bonus, this Order of Ecclesia *sampler* is relatively easy to find on auction sites and the like. The only catch is some people (idiots really) try to jack up the price on this thing even though it is COMPLETELY unwarranted. Don't be fooled in giving too much up for it.

    > Who should pick this up?
    While this sampler fills my needs for Ecclesia tunes rather well, the fact is my case is the exception and not the rule. I can't imagine this sampler being enough for most people and collectors and as such its overall value is rather suspect. Unfortunately, every other route you can take to get Ecclesia's music on disc is prohibitively expensive or woefully incomplete.

  9. Oscar Araujo, Bratislava Symphony Orchestra - Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Soundtrack

    1 For Sale from $14.99


    > Overall Thoughts
    While I made note of it in the opening paragraphs of this list (the not being very invested in orchestration thing) I'm not exactly the best person to talk to if you want a more rounded and less pessimistic review of Oscar Araujo's work in/on the Lords of Shadow Castlevania trilogy. No matter how you slice it, I'm always going to prefer the older 8/16-bit tunes or the stuff Michiru Yamane cooked up. Is most of that due to nostalgia? I'm sure it is. However, while I'm not entirely on board with what the newer games presented on most fronts, I do have to acknowledge this soundtrack and game for a few things.

    Even though I think the first Lords of Shadow was better than the 3DS sequel, I honesty had more fun with Mirror of Fate. Was the game perfect? No, not even close. But it didn't wear out its welcome like the first game did. About halfway through the first game I just wanted that God of War clone to end but it just kept going. Such a complaint may sound trivial, but I was so sick of the game by the end. I never felt that way about Mirror of Fate and it showed me a game like that could work on the 3DS despite my fears about the controls. I still think all the quick-time button press events can go straight to hell because they're a horrible idea in a handheld game (can't tell you how many times I thought I was going to break my 3DS pounding the buttons so I wouldn't die) but I felt the media was a little harsh on the game.

    However, if the gaming media was harsh on the game then I was probably too easy on the game. Everyone hated the main twist but I wasn't so wrapped up in Castlevania lore that I had to go into a fanboyish defense on why it was stupid. That said, I was glad I got to play the game, but as far as longevity Mirror of Fate wasn't really a keeper. In fact, the only thing that stuck out to me years after the game came out were a few particular tracks on the soundtrack. Again, this isn't my kind of music (or game music) but screw it, even I have to admit that tracks like "Theatre" and "Carousel" are beautiful and the most memorable things about the sections of the game they appear in.

    Does Mirror of Fate's soundtrack make me think twice about my aversion to orchestration and choir based VGM? Not quite. But it does make make me think twice before writing off such a body of work in a hasty manner.

    > What You Should Know
    This may sound somewhat odd, but I ran into a piece of information concerning this release that I was unaware of prior to writing this. I'm glad I ran into it, but at the same time I'm not surprised it went over my head. Apparently, the music on this disc is of a higher quality (and has more instruments) than the music in the game itself. I'm not sure if this is due to some kind of compression used by/in the game, but considering I'm only fond of two particular tracks I never made a pointed effort to compare the two sources of audio, so my memories of a game I played three years ago vs this disc is nothing to go on here. That said, I don't think the upgrades are of a large enough degree to turn off those that want an exact copy of what they heard in the game.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    You shouldn't have a problem finding a copy of the Castlevania: Lords of Shadow - Mirror of Fate Soundtrack. I was able to scoop it up a little on cheap side two and half years after the game/soundtrack came out. Unlike previous Castlevania soundtracks, the Lord of Shadow soundtracks are non-Japanese releases so you don't have to import. Because of this and there not being a large price tag attached to the album you won't have to worry about being lead astray by bootlegs.

    > Who should pick this up?
    This probably isn't the proper way to phrase this, but those who feel the exact opposite as I do about orchestration should check this album out. Those inclined towards this flavor of music are sure to more out of it than I currently do or probably ever will.

  10. Yasunori Mitsuda / Nobuo Uematsu / Noriko Matsueda - Chrono Trigger: Original Sound Version

    4 For Sale from $31.50


    > Overall Thoughts
    As ungraceful as the admission is for the opening paragraph of any given overview, Chrono Trigger is one of those games that I can appreciate yet have very little attachment to. A big part of the reason was I had already moved on to the next generation of consoles (and Final Fantasy VII) before ever seeing or experiencing the game. Chrono Trigger was unfortunately another victim of circumstance in my case (which is certainly nothing new to those who play video games) yet the quality of the game wasn't lost on me. Naturally, this platitude extends to Yasunori Mitsuda's soundtrack.

    However, when it comes to the music of Chrono Trigger things get a little complicated for me. It's not that I dislike Mitsuda's work (if anything it's clear the game benefits from it) but for the longest time I couldn't help but feel that it was too simplistic and lived off nostalgia more than it should have. While I've been respectful in raising these concerns are they legitimate or just old qualms I have from a bygone era?

    Rest assured since I've reacquired this soundtrack my thoughts on these two points has softened. I don't think Chrono Trigger's music is "too simplistic" but rather that certain tracks (like the early battle themes) just lure one into forming such a misleading mindset. Then there's the idea that Chrono Cross and Xenogears are more musically developed because their narratives are (or appear) more mature which, when you really think about it, is just a fallacy people use to make themselves appear more mature than they really are. So while I can't say I alleviated those two thoughts from my mind completely, I've come to realize them for the straw-man arguments they really are. I probably like the Chrono Trigger soundtrack more now than I ever have but, as you might expect from someone who's kind of burned out on games in general, this change in perspective will probably never benefit the game itself.

    (Author's Note: Those reading that are unfamiliar with the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version may be wondering why I've given Mitsuda all the credit for composing this soundtrack when there are obviously two other people credited above. Chrono Trigger was Mitsuda's first attempt at composing and as such he worked himself to the point of getting a stomach ulcer. After he was hospitalized Uematsu and Matsueda were brought in to finish the remaining tracks. The bulk of the work was done by Mitsuda but Uematsu contributed nine tracks while Matsueda did one. However, when listening to the soundtrack it's rather easy to tell which tracks Nobuo composed due to the signatures of his style.)

    > What You Should Know
    There aren't any earth shattering hiccups when it comes to how Chrono Trigger's music is presented on these three discs. The one thing to be aware of (which is a minor irritant) is how the warping between time periods sound effect from the game is used to close and open the various discs. I personally find this annoying as when I'm listening to the soundtrack I just want to go from track to track without interruption. The easy fix for this is to just get a music editing program and chop off these openings and endings. This may sound like a hassle but it's actually quite easy to do.

    > Looking for a Copy?
    Finding legitimate copies of the Chrono Trigger Original Sound Version for sale from reputable sellers on the internet is far from difficult these days. The album was re-issued in 2004 and won't be going out of stock for a good, long while. The thing you need to be aware of is not getting the Original Sound Version confused with the various, one disc soundtracks. When Chrono Trigger was released as part of the Final Fantasy Chronicles package on the PlayStation in 1999 (which still puzzles the hell out of me to this day) a one disc soundtrack was released to compliment it and there are a few variations of it in existence. However, in all honesty, I can't imagine most fans being satisfied with owning only about one third of the music in the game.

    > Who should pick this up?
    For fans of Chrono Trigger picking this soundtrack up is already a foregone conclusion. That said, those that are not enamored with the game may be a little more critical of what they are hearing like I was the first time I had the soundtrack. Some of criticisms (or rather the severity of them) was a little unfounded but those who love Chrono Trigger probably aren't going to see the few loose threads you can pick at. Still, given the quality of the content within it's easy to make a case to ignore those loose ends.