Kenneth Young's original soundtrack for the PSVR platformer Astro Bot Rescue Mission is melodic, old-school game music goodness with a sparkly new finish. On very first listen I found myself not only bobbing my head like a happy fool to the upbeat melodies but also humming them incessantly when it was all over. Matching those upbeat melodies are crisp synths that give classic game music just the right modern touch, along with extra instrumental accompaniment ranging from uplifting electric guitar in tracks like "Follow Me (Into the Storm)" to playfully spooky sampled orchestra in "What Was That? (Scary Cave)" to an irresistible bass groove in "Discotree". What a great soundtrack to kick off a new action-platformer series with.
This Kickstarted arranged album by the newly founded VGM Classics gives the full orchestral treatment to the PS1 JRPG classic Suikoden II. As a purely orchestral album it's mostly missing the world music and vocal themes that largely defined the OST. Frankly I'd thought such an album would be pointless, but thanks to the consistent high quality of the arrangements it's turned out to be my favorite arranged album of the year. The better synth-orchestral OST tracks like "Reminiscence" and "Even Farther" have greater emotional nuance, battle themes like "The Desire to Triumph" and "Drive into a Corner" become far more dramatic, and even themes that were once overly simplistic or repetitive like "Beautiful Morning" and "A Moonlight Night" do very nicely here.
This final release in the DS & 3DS line of Etrian Odyssey titles is my first in the series to listen to. If it's any indication of the series' quality I very much look forward to hearing the rest. The highlight "Battlefield" and "Tumult" tracks meld crisp, melodic game synth with varying amounts and intensities of rock guitar, and at their best (namely "Battlefield - Elation" and "Battlefield - Death's Crossroad") show that classic game music quality of masterfully melded, uber-catchy melodies with just the tiniest progressive flair at its very best, along with a just-right modern synth upgrade. Some relaxed, acoustic "Labyrinth" themes and a happy town theme or two round out the soundtrack nicely.
This double-disc compilation is a great way to enjoy the piano arrangements from the FFXIV albums "From Astral to Umbral", "Duality", and "Journeys" for people not interested in the completely disparate "Primals" rock tracks that make up the other halves of those albums. Besides being very pretty in general, tracks like "Serenity", "I Am the Sea", and "Wailers and Waterwheels" have certain especially exquisite moments in their arrangements that give them an extra, unforgettable emotional resonance. As the standout tracks (six of my eight favorites) largely come from From Astral to Umbral, people who have that already might need to give this album a second thought, but that exception aside it ranks right up there with the best of the Final Fantasy piano collections.
This Final Fantasy arranged album produced by Arnie Roth of Distant Worlds fame uses a smaller-scale instrumental ensemble for generally more low-key, "intimate" arrangements. Volume I was a widely hit or miss affair, but this follow-up is a much more consistent effort, both in production values and in overall tone, with even the more upbeat cues still holding true to the album's moniker. No single track matches Volume I's gorgeous FFI "Town" and FFXII "Eruyt Village", but short but sweet classics like FFV "Home, Sweet Home" and FFIX "A Place to Call Home" and the eight-minute FFXII medley "Ivalice Landscapes" should be plenty to make FF fans happy.
This second soundtrack in the Yooka-Laylee series is also the second to feature ex-Rare composers David Wise and Grant Kirkhope, along with a couple of new faces. Even with an abundance of acoustic instrumentation it's at its heart a traditional light-hearted, gamey platformer OST, with just a bit of a funky edge thanks to a healthy helping of bass guitar. It doesn't have any single tracks that stand out at the level of this year's Astro Bot or Etrian Odyssey Nexus (though "Windmill Way – Windy" and "Conveyor Chaos – Crosswire" are strong contenders) but there's about an hour of very solid game music to enjoy.
This piano arranged album for the indie Metroidvania title is split almost evenly between fairly intense, Gothic pieces and more quiet ones. I find the fairly aggressive pounding in some of louder pieces to be a bit abrasive, though a couple do fit well in the flow of the album. The quiet pieces, on the other hand, are on the whole very nice, with tracks like "Greenpath" and especially "Queen's Garden" beautifully treading a line between melancholy and serenity that I've heard in few VGM albums until now.