Soundtrack Central The best classic game music and more

Megavolt Nov 28, 2008 (edited Nov 28, 2008)

...how would you say that VGM in this recently completed era measured up to VGM from past eras?  Just as good?  Worse?  Better?  If anyone remembers, IGN created a "top ten best 8-bit soundtracks" article on August 8, 2007.  They said that in the coming months after the article they would do the same for subsequent gaming generations, from 16-bit to 128-bit.  It's been over a year now and they haven't done that, and so I've been thinking about what my top ten best for the 16-bit generation would be.  It would also be interesting of course to do it for the other generations as well, but connecting this to the comparison idea, I'm not sure that the 128-bit era featured as much awesome music as past eras.  It's a matter of opinion of course, but just taking my favorite soundtracks on the PS2 and comparing them to my favorite soundtracks on the PS1, SNES, and perhaps even the NES (and yes, I know that there was good music on competing consoles from each era even though I'm using the main ones in my comparison), I don't think they quite measure up.  Not that there wasn't some great music, but for whatever reason, a good chunk of it seemed to lack the kind of creative spark that made me a VGM fan in the first place.  Maybe it's nostalgia, maybe it's the more frequent use of popular music, or maybe it's the general shift from the melodic chiptune style to a more subdued approach, but yeah, that's how I feel.

Now that I think about it, the fact that there was no significant jump in terms of sound quality as there was in past eras could also be a factor, as it put more of the burden on the composition in terms of helping the music stand out.  The SNES sound was more sophisticated than the NES sound.  The PS1 took advantage of CDs.  The PS2...  Did the PS2 have anything which sounded better than soundtracks like Suikoden, Tenchu, Chrono Cross (most of which wasn't streamed either, since the other ones I'm mentioned were, I think), SOTN...?  It seems like it didn't, and that except for the use of live orchestra for some tracks on certain scores, the improvements in terms of sound hardware must've been marginal.

What about you guys?  Feel free to compare favorites from one era to another if you think it'll help you put forth your opinion better.

longhairmike Nov 28, 2008

ive lost interest since the new stuff isnt even audibly distinguishable as being from a game anymore...

Dais Nov 28, 2008 (edited Nov 28, 2008)

I have more trouble liking new stuff, but I'm pretty well aware that it's because nothing can recapture the magic of my first hundred hours of video game music.

the longer you're more exposed to something (in this case, a media phenomenon), the less it affects (effects?) you. You notice less new good game music because you care less about new good game music, despite the fact that it feels the opposite (that you care less because you aren't enjoying as much new music). Most people tend to fixate more and diversify less as time goes on.

avatar! Nov 28, 2008

I think game music now is much better than during the 8-bit days, BUT I've always been a fan of orchestral and arranged works, and it seems like games these days are often orchestral. Obviously if you're a fan of midi music, then yes you'll find today's music not as appealing as during the "old days". Still, as Dais mentioned, nostalgia plays a big role in how you perceive things. The PS1 era is when games started becoming more symphonic. If you look at a game like Arc the Lad which was an early PS1 game (although released late in the US), it had a mixture of symphonic and midi. I much prefer the symphonic, and so I purchased the album which had the symphonic tracks as well as arranged music smile Now, in terms of actual compositional quality, that obviously depends on the composer. Overall, I think there are many more talented composers working in the game industry today than before.

I think what's really happening is that people who used to play video games all the time are finding that it's harder to play games when you have job, significant other/family, etc... and so you don't get to enjoy games like you used to, and thus games don't seem to sound as grand. Anyway, that's my view on it!

cheers,

-avatar!

avatar! Nov 28, 2008

Dais wrote:

the longer you're more exposed to something (in this case, a media phenomenon), the less it affects (effects?) you.

Yup, I totally agree. The first time I heard actual voice in a game (Might and Magic III), I was astounded! It was AMAZING! Now of course, games have hours and hours of voice work... and nobody thinks it's anything special. Also, the word you're looking for is "affect", as in the present tense, it has an affect on you. On the other hand, the effect something had in the past was more noticeable smile

cheers,

-avatar!

Megavolt Nov 28, 2008

avatar! wrote:

Overall, I think there are many more talented composers working in the game industry today than before.

That seems hard to believe.  Can you name some of these new composers who are better than the greats of old?  I can't think of many composers who joined the scene during/after the PS2 that have anything on composers who were churning out good soundtracks in the late 80's and althroughout the 90's.  Unless of course you're including composers like Nobuo Uematsu and Yasunori Mitsuda in that statement despite the fact that many people feel like their best soundtracks came before the 128-bit era.  Even then, there are plenty of notable ones who don't seem to be composing anymore, like Koji Kondo (he's contributed very little to recent Mario and Zelda games, right?), Hiroki Kikuta (except for arrange albums?), and Mark Morgan (this guy seemed to disappear after Fallout 2 and Torment).

I get the feeling that you're including the 32-bit era when you say "today" because of what you said about the 32-bit era being the start of a more symphonic approach.  For the purposes of this topic, I wasn't including it.  I like the 32-bit era of VGM quite a bit.  I'd say that that and the 16-bit era are my favorites in terms of the abundance of memorable game scores that I find each to have.  I don't know if that puts me squarely in the midi camp or squarely in the symphonic camp.  Am I a bigger midi fan because I like Xenogears more than Xenosaga?  Am I a bigger symphonic fan because I like KOTOR II more than Contra?  Not so clear cut, is it?

Also, you could argue that it was on the SNES where a more symphonic approach to VGM became more prevalant.  They may not have been orchestrated, but there were plenty of orchestral-styled game scores on the SNES, particularly where the RPG genre was concerned.  Actraiser says hello.

avatar! wrote:

Yup, I totally agree. The first time I heard actual voice in a game (Might and Magic III), I was astounded! It was AMAZING! Now of course, games have hours and hours of voice work... and nobody thinks it's anything special.

Doesn't that also have something to do with how good the voice work actually is?  If someone thinks more of the voice work for Metal Gear Solid than they do of the voice work for Final Fantasy X, couldn't it be simply because they find the former to be better done?

GoldfishX Nov 28, 2008

I'd say worse by a considerable margin. Outside of Guilty Gear (remember, X and beyond would be considered 128-bit era...save for Overture and the handheld ones) and a couple of individual soundtracks (maybe 15-20 for the whole DC/PS2/GC/Xbox era...well, none for GC or Xbox), I can't think of anything that sets off my fap-o-meter the way previous era soundtracks do. On the other hand, I can think of a long list of composers I've long since grown impatient with and tired of (or just outright dislike) and a long list of soundtracks that are too bloated and uninspired for their own good and aren't even remotely as enjoyable as a random SPC pick.

I don't really consider myself a fan of modern game music at all anymore. I follow the scene, but very little gets me excited and normally the ones that do are rooted in characteristics of 8/16-bit era soundtracks (and not surprisingly, most are DS soundtracks or are Falcom-related). There's very little I'd recommend to people looking to break into the VGM scene. It's just plain old music now, with little (if any) emotional attachment to the composers or games (I don't play as much as I used to). In the past, I kept tracks around that I didn't like, in the hopes that I'd end up appreciating them more down the road. I don't do this anymore and I tend to find the listening experience much more enjoyable having the ability to throw whatever I don't like out the window and sparing myself the need to revisit them, supposedly because they present a "deeper" listening experience. Needless to say, there have been a lot of broken windows and wounded pedestrians down on the sidewalk. It's really exposed how bare the cupboard has been for awhile.

Dais Nov 28, 2008

Megavolt wrote:
avatar! wrote:

Overall, I think there are many more talented composers working in the game industry today than before.

That seems hard to believe.  Can you name some of these new composers who are better than the greats of old?

"I don't believe you. Can you name some examples - after you factor in an unsolicited and absurd qualifier which is intended to make your statement seem ridiculous?"

Megavolt Nov 28, 2008 (edited Nov 28, 2008)

Whoops, I meant to say "original works" for Kikuta.

GoldfishX wrote:

I follow the scene, but very little gets me excited and normally the ones that do are rooted in characteristics of 8/16-bit era soundtracks (and not surprisingly, most are DS soundtracks or are Falcom-related).

I think we feel similarly except that I'm not as big on rock and you're not as big on orchestral.

However, some rock stuff has recently grown on me.  You mentioned SPC picks and the Megaman X soundtrack has grown on me.  I never thought much of it before and now I like it.  I've been getting into more Follin bros. stuff too, some of which has a rock element, like their music for Spider-Man and the X-Men: Arcade's Revenge.

Dais wrote:

"I don't believe you. Can you name some examples - after you factor in an unsolicited and absurd qualifier which is intended to make your statement seem ridiculous?"

That was uncalled for.  If you think that my intent is inappropriate in some way, then ask me about it before attacking me over an assumption.

"Better" and "more talented" might as well mean the same thing.  A comparison of quality between past and recent is the point of this entire discussion.  There's nothing absurd being factored in.  And if he was referring solely to volume, I allowed for the possibility that he was including many of the older composers who are still around, though his statement would still be suggesting that on average, today's composers are more talented.  It's up to him to elaborate upon and support what he said in whichever way he feels is necessary.  I just find it surprising that one might feel that today's composers are more talented than the composers from the past.  In any case, I don't think it's absurd to ask for clarification and perhaps some sort of proof (as far as proof goes in terms of supporting an opinion) for such a statement.

Dais Nov 28, 2008 (edited Nov 28, 2008)

"Better" and "more talented" might as well mean the same thing.  A comparison of quality between past and recent is the point of this entire discussion.  There's nothing absurd being factored in.  And if he was referring solely to volume, I allowed for the possibility that he was including many of the older composers who are still around, though his statement would still be suggesting that on average, today's composers are more talented.

and now it's "it's legitimate since he meant x, unless he meant y, in which case he still meant x".

GoldfishX Nov 28, 2008

I propose a national "We love Dais" day. Where would we be without his wonderful input?

Daniel K Nov 28, 2008

Dais wrote:

the longer you're more exposed to something (in this case, a media phenomenon), the less it affects (effects?) you. You notice less new good game music because you care less about new good game music, despite the fact that it feels the opposite (that you care less because you aren't enjoying as much new music). Most people tend to fixate more and diversify less as time goes on.

Nail on the head. The thing about people tending to fixate more and diversify less as time goes on is something that's easy to see in a lot of old VGM fans complaining about the state of the craft (I recognize this aspect in myself as well).

Megavolt wrote:
avatar! wrote:

Overall, I think there are many more talented composers working in the game industry today than before.

That seems hard to believe.  Can you name some of these new composers who are better than the greats of old? [...]I just find it surprising that one might feel that today's composers are more talented than the composers from the past.

Completely and utterly subjective. A big fan of 128-bit VGM might as well claim the burden of proof is on you to show that yesteryear's VGM is better than this year's. It all boils down to preference and taste.

longhairmike wrote:

ive lost interest since the new stuff isnt even audibly distinguishable as being from a game anymore...

Why? Maybe it doesn't sound like what you think music from a game should sound like, but there are other merits VGM can have other than sounding "game-y". Such as.. oh, I don't know... Being good music regardless of the number of "bits" or the year of production? I really love the oldschool chiptune sound, but, that said, some of the very best game music I've heard isn't expressed through square waves or simplistic melodies, and can never be. What Akira Yamaoka, Yoshitaka Hirota, kt2, and other composers who have had their greatest harvest seasons post 16-bit have accomplished is something I wouldn't have missed for the world.

GoldfishX wrote:

It's just plain old music now

Oh, the horror! We don't want music, do we?

I'm not arguing that newer VGM is better or worse here, overall I'd say my tastes are split about 60-40 in favour of 8- and 16-bit music over 32-, 64- and 128-bit. But this "ghost of oldschool VGM"-thing is getting really old. The sooner it dies, the better. People should recognize that their nostalgic memories and musical preferences are the deciding factors, and that setting up a simplistic "old-vs-new"-dichotomy will have no other function than limiting their own musical horizons and possibilities. Personally, I'm always keeping a look-out for good music, VGM or non-VGM, new or old, and there are hits and misses in all categories. Sure, there's a lot of crap being made today, but the same could be said for earlier eras as well - go to Zophar's Domain and download any random NSF from a NES game you never played and see how much fun the following 10 minutes will be.

GoldfishX Nov 28, 2008 (edited Nov 28, 2008)

Daniel K wrote:

Oh, the horror! We don't want music, do we?

Hmm, what I mean is something can't get by simply by virtue of being game music. It doesn't have that bias working in its' favor anymore. In other words, I'm holding it to a higher standard. For example, Yamane doesn't cut the mustard anymore because I'm comparing her work to everything else of mine and seeing how (poorly) it stacks up to it, not just to other CV soundtracks or other game music. I'm not giving it bonus points just for being game music or (in the case of CoD) for being Castlevania music with some guitars in it. On the same hand, I still regard most Guilty Gear music as some of the best hard rock/metal I've heard overall (not just compared to other VGM rock/metal soundtracks).

One recent example I can think of is the latest Wild Arms soundtracks. They're diverse (arguably more diverse than Naruke's work) and there's nothing wrong with them, from a sound-quality perspective or a composition perspective, but I feel no motivation to listen to them any further. If anything, I'm wondering why a generic JRPG would need 6 CD's worth of music (spread across two 3 disc releases). There's simply nothing about the music that would make me favor it or dislike it. And on that note...The Wild Arms Rock Arrange. It's a fine diverse album, but as a rock album, it fails miserably to deliver on its' promise.

Daniel K wrote:

But this "ghost of oldschool VGM"-thing is getting really old. The sooner it dies, the better. People should recognize that their nostalgic memories and musical preferences are the deciding factors, and that setting up a simplistic "old-vs-new"-dichotomy will have no other function than limiting their own musical horizons and possibilities. Personally, I'm always keeping a look-out for good music, VGM or non-VGM, new or old, and there are hits and misses in all categories. Sure, there's a lot of crap being made today, but the same could be said for earlier eras as well - go to Zophar's Domain and download any random NSF from a NES game you never played and see how much fun the following 10 minutes will be.

If this is targetted at me, it's not quite that simple. My thing is right now, I'm not impressed with about 98% of the composers on the scene and I think it's had a massive effect on the respect I used to have for game music. That's why I feel it's important to state I'm not a fan of a lot of modern game music...Saying I'm not a fan of game music anymore would wrongly include a lot of classic soundtracks that I happen to love and I feel it necessary to make that distinction.

And I'm not drawing an imaginary line, I'm just fed up with what's being spoonfed to us and the majority of it is totally laughable on a one-to-one basis. From the latest Soule drone-fest to the next samey-Sakuraba soundtrack to Sakimoto and his cronies at Basicscape pumping out soundtrack after soundtrack like there's no tomorrow to the shambles of the once-proud sound teams of both Konami and Square (I'm still shaking my head at the thought of Ishimoto having a JOB, much less Final Fantasy composing duties) to getting three laughably bad Rockman arrange albums in the span of one year, the whole scene just screams "f---ing lame" right about now. I'm fine that there are composers that don't do it for me, but I have enough trouble finding enough of them to count off on one hand. Which kinda sucks, considering my iPod was 95% VGM roughly two years ago and has made a painfully smooth transition to 20-25% now. My two cents.

Even you should notice the lack of discussion going on around here. I get the feeling that a lot of people feel similar...That there simply aren't a lot of classic soundtracks that people are going to be caring about years from now and there aren't really a lot of classic "OMG, everyone must hear!" tracks being made. Last one I can think of was "Still Alive" from Portal.

As for the NSF thing...No, not every oldschool soundtrack is great, much less good. But also remember that a lot of it isn't pressed to CD and designed to be sold as a commercial product, whereas a lot of the soundtracks I have issues with and ones that define the current scene are.

Megavolt Nov 28, 2008

It's a matter of syntax, Dais.  Don't you see how "many more talented" composers can mean a few different things?  I tried to contend the potential implications of what he said and you've misunderstood.

GoldfishX wrote:

I propose a national "We love Dais" day. Where would we be without his wonderful input?

You know me better than Dais does.  I mean what I say and I say what I mean.  That's why I don't think the picture he's attempting to paint of me is amusing in the slightest.  However clever he thinks his analyses are, he's implying that I'm insincere in my arguments, and I find that insulting.

Daniel K wrote:

Completely and utterly subjective. A big fan of 128-bit VGM might as well claim the burden of proof is on you to show that yesteryear's VGM is better than this year's. It all boils down to preference and taste.

Perhaps.  Only Avatar! can tell me if he agrees with that.  All I know is that he said he thinks there are many more talented composers these days.  I don't know the why beyond an apparent preference for a more symphonic style.  To say that you prefer a certain style and to say that a composer is more talented is saying two different things.  I don't see the crime in asking him about it.

GoldfishX Nov 28, 2008

Megavolt, just relax...He's Dais. Just learn to love him for who he is.

Ashley Winchester Nov 28, 2008

Personally, I can't say I've found the 128-bit full or riches. The best example of this is Michiko Naruke. I love Wild Arms and Wild Arms 2nd Ignition but with Wild Arms Advanced 3rd Naruke seemed in a big damn hurry to take her style to the next level in order to play "complexity catch-up" with other composers. 2004's Alter code:F was a nice reprieve before the unimpressive 4 & 5 although the way she used thicker instruments (a curse of changing times and technology moving forward?) made tracks that worked before seemed needlessly balky.

Wild Arms XF was a nice surprise though you still have a ton of filler to go through....

GoldfishX Nov 28, 2008

Ashley Winchester wrote:

2004's Alter code:F was a nice reprieve before the unimpressive 4 & 5 although the way she used thicker instruments (a curse of changing times and technology moving forward?) made tracks that worked before seemed needlessly balky.

It's worth noting for people not familiar with the series...She only did about a quarter of 4 and basically none of 5.

Daniel K Nov 29, 2008

I don't know... The only thing I can agree with is that new VGM and old VGM are different from each other. One can of course prefer one over the other, but to me it very much seems like apples and oranges... And the apples and oranges both have tasty parts and yucky parts.

I think there's a lot to Dais' statement that nothing can quite replicate the magic of the first hundred hours of VGM, and this works towards giving "oldschool" VGM a huge advantage for most of us. The fact that many more games are being made today, many more people are involved in the VGM business, and much more game music is being made compared to, say, 1988, is both a possibility and a problem. There are probably at least ten times as many active VGM composers today as there was twenty years ago, so there's a very real chance that, quantitatively, there's more great music being made today than "back in the day". We just don't know, because who has the opportunity now to check out more than a tiny fraction of all music being composed? There are so many albums I just feel passing me by at lightning speed that I'll probably never get around to checking out. The possibility for greatness is there, but there's also the problem of finding the good stuff, a problem that gets harder (at least that's what I think) the more stuff there is to wade through. There's probably more outright crap being produced now, which can have a very disheartening effect on a jaded "oldschool" fan trying to find some good new releases.

We can only attempt a personal, subjective assessment from the tiny sampling we've made from this big picture, and that's what we base our opinions of "new" versus "old" VGM on. Nothing wrong with that, of course. But like Dais' pointed out, as time goes on, people tend to fixate and grow rigid in their preferences and expectations, and if you strongly cling to the view that VGM was better before, you'll probably continue to move in that direction more and more (face it, that's what happens when people grow old). I personally also have the sense that game music overall was better and more "special" back in the 80s and 90s, but I'm trying to keep those thoughts in check because I know they'll make it harder for me to be open to and accept new stuff that comes along. Wallowing in nostalgia is wonderful, but it can also have the effect of blocking/hindering future experiences (can memories be jealous of each other?).

GoldfishX wrote:

My thing is right now, I'm not impressed with about 98% of the composers on the scene

That's a pretty bleak outlook, Goldfish. If there's nothing promising on the horizon, what makes you stick around the VGM scene? Maybe its time to pack the bags if you feel you get nothing out of it.

longhairmike Nov 29, 2008

Daniel K wrote:

If there's nothing promising on the horizon, what makes you stick around the VGM scene? Maybe its time to pack the bags if you feel you get nothing out of it.

posting on this forum has nothing to do with how hip one is to the current VGM scene. Its not a friggin country club. most of us have been here over a decade and we enjoy each others' unique styles of responses. It's like some Linkin park fan telling me to cut my hair because the metal i liked 20 years ago is no longer considered metal.

GoldfishX Nov 29, 2008

Daniel K wrote:

That's a pretty bleak outlook, Goldfish. If there's nothing promising on the horizon, what makes you stick around the VGM scene? Maybe its time to pack the bags if you feel you get nothing out of it.

For the most part, that's where I'm at. Most of the soundtracks/arranges remaining on my iPod aren't even close to recent. BUT, that doesn't mean they're obsolete either and I'm perfectly fine with saying, subjectively, a newer soundtrack doesn't live up to them enough to warrant keeping or listening to extensively. I like to think I'm still in the hunt for good stuff from the VGM world (and if anything, phasing out a lot of the composers at the forefront nowadays that I know I don't care about gives me more time to focus on finding what's good, old or not). And to be fair, there has been a trickling of quality releases this year I have nothing but good things to say about -MUCH better than last year, which I thought was an all-out terrible year for VGM- (Raiden 4, Zwei!! 2, JDK Band Spring 2008, Megaman 9, Sekaijuu 2, Soma Bringer, Inazuma Eleven, half of Black Mages III, Omega Five, Guilty Gear Overture Vol. 2 -along with BlazBlue later on this year-and the long overdue Sorcerian Megadrive and Phantasy Star 1st Series sets.)

To be fair though, couldn't you ask that question of a lot of people? Sorry to say, decent discussions on newer soundtracks don't seem to happen very often. Perhaps there's a reason (no one likes a lot of them, no one cares, etc...).

Megavolt Nov 29, 2008

Ah, I think I see what you're saying, GoldfishX.  I'll keep that in mind.

Daniel K wrote:

There's probably more outright crap being produced now, which can have a very disheartening effect on a jaded "oldschool" fan trying to find some good new releases.

I don't know about others, but for me, VGM has always had a lot to do with the game experience.  Since I've always tried to play the good games with the good soundtracks, I'm not convinced that it's a matter of having to wade through too much crap.  There was plenty of crap during the 8-bit and 16-bit eras.  The difference today is that we have a better idea of what may or may not have a good soundtrack due to our greater familiarity with all things VGM, which if anything should make it easier to avoid the mediocre scores.   Before you could maybe expect a certain quality of music based on the musical legacy of a franchise, but otherwise it would be a crapshoot.

Daniel K wrote:

I personally also have the sense that game music overall was better and more "special" back in the 80s and 90s, but I'm trying to keep those thoughts in check because I know they'll make it harder for me to be open to and accept new stuff that comes along. Wallowing in nostalgia is wonderful, but it can also have the effect of blocking/hindering future experiences (can memories be jealous of each other?).

Just be careful your attempt at remaining open-minded doesn't put you in a state of denial, which would be another form of bias, albeit one with more of an intellectual appeal compared to nostalgia.

Also, I do have some soundtracks that I like a great deal from the 128-bit era, so I'd like to think that if I didn't enjoy some of the music as much as before that it isn't solely because I have a rose-tinted view of the past.  The problem is that such soundtracks seem to be fewer and farther in-between and I suspect there's more to it than simply a natural tendency to yearn for the experiences from my more formative years as a VGM fan.  The fact that you have the same sense of things despite your arguments (which I can appreciate) would seem to support my suspicion as well.

Brandon Nov 29, 2008 (edited Nov 29, 2008)

Pedantic footnote: The sixth-generation consoles are not 128-bit. Neither are the seventh-generation consoles, and it's unlikely that any of the eight-generation consoles will be, for the same reason there are no 128-bit PCs: Increasing the word size beyond 64 bits has no significant performance advantages for the vast majority of applications. In fact, even a 64-bit word size doesn't do all that much for most applications unless you have more than 4 GB of memory, which no console does.

Edited to add:
Regarding voice acting, most voice acting in games sucks, so I'm still impressed by good voice acting. The two games whose voice acting I enjoyed the most were King's Quest VI and Dragon Quest VIII, which were released a dozen or so years apart (and also Auron in FFX, though IIRC every other VA was terrible). But I'm also impressed by good voice acting in movies, too, and I like listening to old recordings of Ronald Reagan's speeches just because he had such a great voice, so maybe that's just me.

Cedille Nov 29, 2008

By the way, the 128 bit era isn't over that much.

The life-span of game consoles is getting longer.

Amazingu Nov 29, 2008

Cedille wrote:

By the way, the 128 bit era isn't over that much.

What he said.

The 128 bit era is FAR from over, there haven't even been any new consoles announced yet.
Sony has been saying the PS3 should last 10 years (yeah right) and the 360 has at least 2 good years ahead of it, I'm sure.

On the quality of music, I love music nowadays as much as I loved it back in the day.
It hasn't gotten worse at all.

Lost Odyssey is easily as good as any of Uematsu's pre-FFVI work, and better than most of his post-FFVI work.
Mario Galaxy is the FIRST Mario Soundtrack I actually REALLY REALLY liked. Loved even.
Megaman 9 kicks as much ass as the original NES games, and MM9, despite consisting of chiptunes, is very much modern Game Music.

You know what's gotten worse over the years?
Jaded gamers complaining about the state of gaming today.

Daniel K Nov 29, 2008

longhairmike wrote:
Daniel K wrote:

If there's nothing promising on the horizon, what makes you stick around the VGM scene? Maybe its time to pack the bags if you feel you get nothing out of it.

posting on this forum has nothing to do with how hip one is to the current VGM scene.

Read my sentence again. I said nothing about leaving this place or stopping posting, I said "what makes you stick around the VGM scene?" VGM scene doesn't = STC. STC is a discussion forum about the VGM scene, among other things.

longhairmike wrote:

most of us have been here over a decade and we enjoy each others' unique styles of responses. It's like some Linkin park fan telling me to cut my hair because the metal i liked 20 years ago is no longer considered metal.

Well, I've been here for over a decade as well, so I'm hardly the Linkin Park fan to your 80s metalhead.

GoldfishX wrote:

To be fair though, couldn't you ask that question of a lot of people?

Sure, I'm asking myself that pretty often as well. Just wanted to hear what you had to say about it, since you've been one of the gloomier voices in the community concerning the state of VGM today. smile

GoldfishX wrote:

Sorry to say, decent discussions on newer soundtracks don't seem to happen very often.

I've noticed that as well. Nowadays, its more common for the discussion about a soundtrack to take place before its released, once its out and people hear it, the threads usually die (see for example the Order of Ecclesia thread below). Some very popular albums that appeal to a large part of the community (see Rockman 9) are exceptions, but its usually like that. Five or ten years ago, the discussions would usually balloon out of proportion after the album was released and everyone had heard it. I'm not sure this can be interpreted as proof that albums today aren't as good as the old ones, or made into a sweeping generalization about the state of game music today. Maybe its just that the average age of the hardcore VGM fan is higher now, and that people learn with age that debating subjective opinions on art back and forth usually don't yield much insight or serve much purpose unless all involved parties express themselves in an intelligent, articulate and respectful manner (which often isn't the case)? I don't think most of us are inclined to fight and endlessly debate an album's worth like we did with Chrono Cross or FF8 when we were 17 or 19 or 21 or whatever... There's a real possibility that some of the nostalgia we feel about certain "golden age" VGM albums is really residual excitement from the discussions we partook in regarding those albums, passionately defending or debating them. I'm not saying this is a decisive or even significant portion of an album's appeal, but it might count for more than we consciously are aware of. Thus, if there's less discussion about new albums as a result of us being older and more jaded and picky VGM-fans, it follows that fewer new "legends" will be created. So, it might very well be that there's less discussion about new albums now because the new albums are on average worse than the old ones, but it might also be the reverse, that we're less excited simply because there's less hype going around and we're less susceptible to that hype. I think both explanations are correct and work together, although which the dominant one is is hard to tell and probably varies a lot from person to person (and album to album).

Megavolt wrote:

I don't know about others, but for me, VGM has always had a lot to do with the game experience.

A good point, most VGM fans are game fans first and VGM fans second. I think that, generally, the more games you play, the more likely you are to become a VGM fan or maintain that enthusiasm. Is there even one hardcore VGM fan out there that wasn't an avid gamer first? The problem a lot of us have is that we don't play many games anymore, so we're not as firmly rooted in the game/VGM culture as we were. Now I play maybe 4 or 5 games per year, and buy maybe 7 or 8 game music albums per year. I try to keep an open mind and outlook towards new VGM from games I haven't played, but I've noticed that I've become much more discriminatory and unforgiving in my selection (like Goldfish), and very rarely give new downloads more than a single playthrough if I didn't like them the first time. On the other hand we have fans like Amazingu that still play a lot of games, and these people usually don't feel that VGM has gotten any worse than it was. So the degree to which you are immersed in gaming culture and to which you are exposed to games seems to have bearing on your view of "the state of VGM" (at least for most people).

Megavolt wrote:

Just be careful your attempt at remaining open-minded doesn't put you in a state of denial, which would be another form of bias

Haha, that's a great argument. If by "state of denial" you mean that I would start pretending to like new VGM just to be "open-minded", you need have no worries, I won't. I trust my own judgment.

Megavolt wrote:

The fact that you have the same sense of things despite your arguments (which I can appreciate) would seem to support my suspicion as well.

All I'm saying is its very hard to determine if "old" or "new" VGM is the better, and wasting too much time on the question increases the chance of blinding yourself by choosing one "side" over the other. And if you happen to choose the "old side", the outlook for the future becomes pretty grim, because, let's face it, that era is bygone and isn't coming back. Stuff like Rockman 9 is the exception, not the rule.


There are many dimensions to the "new-vs-old"-problem, we have hardly mentioned the supposed "melody-vs-ambiance"-dichotomy yet. Some people dislike newer VGM because they simply like melodic and "memorable" music more (although I personally would argue that music lacking melody can be just as memorable). This doesn't bother me that much personally because (1) its overemphasized, there's still a lot of melodic VGM being made, and (2) I'm fortunate enough to be able to appreciate most kinds of music, so I feel that a catchy melody isn't the only component that can make music great (beats and ambiance account for a lot as well, which is partly why I like Yamaoka so much, because he combines the three perfectly in his music).


Brandon wrote:

Pedantic footnote: The sixth-generation consoles are not 128-bit. Neither are the seventh-generation consoles, and it's unlikely that any of the eight-generation consoles will be, for the same reason there are no 128-bit PCs: Increasing the word size beyond 64 bits has no significant performance advantages for the vast majority of applications. In fact, even a 64-bit word size doesn't do all that much for most applications unless you have more than 4 GB of memory, which no console does.

Thanks for the clarification. I've always wondered why people stopped talking in "bits" when discussing new consoles. Back in the early 90s, "bit" was the Hip Word, especially in the 16-bit era when people started moving away from the NES (its only 8-bit! you don't wanna play that). I guess after 64-bit, the term has become redundant.

Brandon wrote:

I like listening to old recordings of Ronald Reagan's speeches just because he had such a great voice

You should listen to the fireside chats instead! tongue

Zane Nov 29, 2008

Megavolt wrote:

...how would you say that VGM in this recently completed era measured up to VGM from past eras?  Just as good?  Worse?  Better?

As far as my tastes go, there have been a lot of excellent VGM releases from the PS2/GCN/XBox era, but as Daniel K said...

Daniel K wrote:

new VGM and old VGM are different from each other. One can of course prefer one over the other, but to me it very much seems like apples and oranges...

Some of my all time favorite soundtracks came from this past generation, like Shadow Hearts OST, killer7, Gungrave, but the way that I enjoy these soundtracks are different then the way I enjoy some of my other favorites. I love Dracula Best 2 just as much as I love Gungrave, but in a totally different way. Apples and oranges, for sure. When I listen to something like Gungrave I really enjoy it, like, almost illegally so, but when I hear older VGM (especially from games I have played) it affects me in a different way. It's like lust VS love, or something.

However, I will say that on a larger scale there are far less "monumental" releases in this age then there were in the past. I mean, on a large scale, do you think that there will be soundtracks being released now that will be looked back upon with such reverence like the NES Rockman OSTs or Final Fantasy VI OSV? I'm sure some OSTs will be held in such regard, but the number of those OSTs is and will be lesser than the older.

Megavolt wrote:

Did the PS2 have anything which sounded better than soundtracks like Suikoden, Tenchu, Chrono Cross (most of which wasn't streamed either, since the other ones I'm mentioned were, I think), SOTN...?  It seems like it didn't, and that except for the use of live orchestra for some tracks on certain scores, the improvements in terms of sound hardware must've been marginal.

Not really, I don't think. I mean, FFX had some great programming on some of the acoustic songs, like "Spiran Scenery", but there was nothing as monumental as the jump from 16 to 32-bit such as the titles you mentioned. I still have trouble believing that Chrono Cross isn't emulated - when I first got the album I was 100% convinced it was all real! Those acoustic guitars sound amazing.

Amazingu wrote:

You know what's gotten worse over the years?
Jaded gamers complaining about the state of gaming today.

Guilty as charged, man. wink

Daniel K Nov 29, 2008

Zane wrote:

However, I will say that on a larger scale there are far less "monumental" releases in this age then there were in the past. I mean, on a large scale, do you think that there will be soundtracks being released now that will be looked back upon with such reverence like the NES Rockman OSTs or Final Fantasy VI OSV?

I'm not so sure about that. Only the future can tell if there will be as many great classics from this generation as from the preceding ones. Whenever I hear this argument, I'm immediately reminded of a part of Ian Stocker's review of Castlevania 64 OST right here on STC:

...Shockingly unlike its predecessors, the sounds of Castlevania Apocalypse are entirely forgettable. (What was that third level theme?) I doubt we'll be seeing any remixes of any of this new material in future CV games. (How would we be able to tell, anyway?).

The differing opinions on the music aside, what's amusing is that only two years after the CV64 OST (in 2001), Circle of the Moon was released, the soundtrack of which featured two rearranged themes from CV64, and a track from the new CV Judgment OST is also from CV64. This illustrates how temporal and subjective the "monumental"-argument is. Times change, new generations with different perspectives on what game music should sound like and with different favourite "classics" arise all the time. I recently talked to a 21-year-old gamer and fledgling VGM-fan who's first console was the PS1, and he went on and on about how the music of MGS1 and CV - SOTN was way better than that of Halo 3 or Gears of War. So I asked him, how about them sweet Mega Man 2 or Castlevania 3? He's like "Duuuh, wut that?" So yes, I do think "classics" in this vast and fast-moving field have limited life-spans, even though we often don't want to acknowledge it. And for the vast majority of gamers, the music you remember from your own "classic" gaming period is usually what you like the best. Surprise.

Add to this also that there's been an immense diversification of VGM over the last ten years. There's much more music available now, much more music being produced, and many more fans to hear that music, so of course no series or composer is once again going to be seen as so "monumental" or monolithic as some of us see the classics. When I arrived at this forum (sometime in 1998), this was Final Fantasy Country, with some Mitsuda and Falcom thrown in for good measure. Because VGM was much more limited and harder to get, and there were fewer fans most of which came from the same traditions/series, there was a general consensus of what constituted "good" and "classical" VGM (just go and read some of the oldest FF-reviews on this site if you want to know what I mean). Nowadays, on the other hand, there are many more people here, there are many more composers and series being highlighted, explored, and discussed, and thus its hard to see any one series or composer having the golden status that for example NES Mega Man music or Nobuo Uematsu once enjoyed in the eyes of a majority of VGM-fans... Personally, I think this diversification is a good thing, although it does present many problems for anyone trying to get around (as discussed above).

So, the short version of my long reply is: we can't really say if any of the PS2 scores will be held in as great a regard as the most famous SNES scores are held today. The future is notoriously hard to predict, and in these kinds of things, personal subjective preferences, nostalgic memories, and the specific temporal situation all work to cloud the vision. Apples and oranges.

Zane Nov 29, 2008

Daniel K wrote:
Zane wrote:

However, I will say that on a larger scale there are far less "monumental" releases in this age then there were in the past. I mean, on a large scale, do you think that there will be soundtracks being released now that will be looked back upon with such reverence like the NES Rockman OSTs or Final Fantasy VI OSV?

I'm not so sure about that. Only the future can tell if there will be as many great classics from this generation as from the preceding ones.

Daniel K wrote:

I recently talked to a 21-year-old gamer and fledgling VGM-fan who's first console was the PS1, and he went on and on about how the music of MGS1 and CV - SOTN was way better than that of Halo 3 or Gears of War. So I asked him, how about them sweet Mega Man 2 or Castlevania 3? He's like "Duuuh, wut that?" So yes, I do think "classics" in this vast and fast-moving field have limited life-spans, even though we often don't want to acknowledge it. And for the vast majority of gamers, the music you remember from your own "classic" gaming period is usually what you like the best. Surprise.

Daniel K wrote:

The future is notoriously hard to predict, and in these kinds of things, personal subjective preferences, nostalgic memories, and the specific temporal situation all work to cloud the vision. Apples and oranges.

All good points, man. I should have originally posted that I think or I believe that there will be less monumental releases in this age compared to the good ol' days in relation to my personal preferences and tastes. But... you never know. Final Fantasy XV could have an incredible soundtrack unlike anything we've all heard before... wink

GoldfishX Nov 29, 2008

Daniel K wrote:

Sure, I'm asking myself that pretty often as well. Just wanted to hear what you had to say about it, since you've been one of the gloomier voices in the community concerning the state of VGM today. smile

Right...BUT be careful, because I'm not speaking for anyone but myself. I'm not telling anyone they have to believe me or they have to put any stock in what I say when I comment on how disappointing some newer soundtracks are or when I comment on the status of the current scene. But like I said, there are a couple of recent releases (and composers) that totally lower my opinion of VGM as a whole and create that pessimistic outlook. An interview was done with Jeremy Soule recently, saying that VGM was a "niche of classical music" and that games should be called "interactive movies" instead of videogames and believes games should sound more like film music. For someone like me that believes game music is more than the "bastard child of film music" as some people like to call it, it's disappointing knowing there's an inside force that is basically the face of American VGM making a serious attempt to relegate it to that status. And Ishimoto...After getting stinkbombed with both "The World Ends With You" and "Crisis Core", that pretty much rapes any remaining respect I might have for the once great status of "VGM Composer", especially one working inhouse at Square. And finally getting some Rockman arrange love and seeing how they turned out (along with the horrendous Gradius and Hudson Premium arranges recently)...I think I have every right to be a little jaded. I figure I can go right along and pretend it's okay, but I'd rather just choose to see the scene for how it is, instead of pretending everything's all happy and cheery.

Like I also said, 2007 was a totally worthless year for VGM for me, where it basically hit rock bottom. Part of me wants assurance that it isn't a hint of things to come (2008 hasn't been mindblowing, but it's been better overall).


Daniel K wrote:

I've noticed that as well. Nowadays, its more common for the discussion about a soundtrack to take place before its released, once its out and people hear it, the threads usually die (see for example the Order of Ecclesia thread below). Some very popular albums that appeal to a large part of the community (see Rockman 9) are exceptions, but its usually like that. Five or ten years ago, the discussions would usually balloon out of proportion after the album was released and everyone had heard it. I'm not sure this can be interpreted as proof that albums today aren't as good as the old ones, or made into a sweeping generalization about the state of game music today. Maybe its just that the average age of the hardcore VGM fan is higher now, and that people learn with age that debating subjective opinions on art back and forth usually don't yield much insight or serve much purpose unless all involved parties express themselves in an intelligent, articulate and respectful manner (which often isn't the case)? I don't think most of us are inclined to fight and endlessly debate an album's worth like we did with Chrono Cross or FF8 when we were 17 or 19 or 21 or whatever... There's a real possibility that some of the nostalgia we feel about certain "golden age" VGM albums is really residual excitement from the discussions we partook in regarding those albums, passionately defending or debating them. I'm not saying this is a decisive or even significant portion of an album's appeal, but it might count for more than we consciously are aware of. Thus, if there's less discussion about new albums as a result of us being older and more jaded and picky VGM-fans, it follows that fewer new "legends" will be created. So, it might very well be that there's less discussion about new albums now because the new albums are on average worse than the old ones, but it might also be the reverse, that we're less excited simply because there's less hype going around and we're less susceptible to that hype. I think both explanations are correct and work together, although which the dominant one is is hard to tell and probably varies a lot from person to person (and album to album).

Please see the recent discussion about the Rockman 9 Arrange...People felt strongly enough about it to voice their opinions on it, good or bad. Same for the OST. That is something that rarely happens with anything released nowadays. For example, Amazingu mentioned Lost Odyssey was as good as most anything Uematsu has done. My own opinion aside, I've seen no discussion on it whatsoever, which tells me people are generally indifferent to it. Very rarely do you see individual tracks discussed. I tend to think it's all a sign of general indifference (or in some cases, people with negative opinions that they keep to themselves). From my own perspective, I didn't find much in Lost Odyssey terribly noteworthy.

Daniel K wrote:

A good point, most VGM fans are game fans first and VGM fans second. I think that, generally, the more games you play, the more likely you are to become a VGM fan or maintain that enthusiasm.

Yes and no...personally, I haven't found myself enthralled with a lot of the music I've heard for games I play. If anything, it's had the opposite effect. Gradius V, Planet Puzzle League and Valkyrie Profile 2 lost a lot of their sheen because of the music (I was a big fan of both the music and gameplay of their predecessors) and I just skipped Odin Sphere entirely, because it was another Basicscape effort and after sampling Infinite Discovery's OST, I'm not sure I'd be able to tolerate a firm helping of orchestral Sakuraba the whole game. Even stuff like Suikoden V, which I pumped over 150 hours into, and Sato's Nippon Ichi game scores, I find the music doesn't age very gracefully. I tend to find experiences like Guilty Gear (and yes, Megaman 9), where the music and gameplay hit JUST right are few and far between nowadays. I was really disappointed to hear what Battle Fantasia sounded like. Very un-fighterlike and disappointing for an Arc System game. At least Street Fighter 4 doesn't sound too bad so far and I greatly look forward to both the gameplay and music of BlazBlue.


Daniel K wrote:

There are many dimensions to the "new-vs-old"-problem, we have hardly mentioned the supposed "melody-vs-ambiance"-dichotomy yet. Some people dislike newer VGM because they simply like melodic and "memorable" music more (although I personally would argue that music lacking melody can be just as memorable). This doesn't bother me that much personally because (1) its overemphasized, there's still a lot of melodic VGM being made, and (2) I'm fortunate enough to be able to appreciate most kinds of music, so I feel that a catchy melody isn't the only component that can make music great (beats and ambiance account for a lot as well, which is partly why I like Yamaoka so much, because he combines the three perfectly in his music).

I'll make this one REALLY easy from my perspective...I don't like ambient music. If I do, it's probably because I'm comparing works from one composer to another or to something else they've done, and it's the lesser evil. But overall, I tend to find it and overly atmospheric music a chore to listen to and really, it's not why I choose to listen to VGM, so I have no reason to continue to force it upon myself.

Brandon Nov 29, 2008

Amazingu wrote:

The 128 bit era is FAR from over, there haven't even been any new consoles announced yet.

By "128-bit," he means the sixth-generation consoles (PS2/Dreamcast/XBox/GC). The PS2 and Dreamcast were both marketed, not entirely accurately, as being "128-bit." The PS2 had some 128-bit registers that could operate on four 32-bit values simultaneously, but so did the Pentium III, and it's universally referred to as a 32-bit processor. All I can find about the Dreamcast is that it had a 128-bit floating-point unit, though I'm pretty sure it was the same sort of thing as the PS2--i.e., it could operate on multiple 32-bit values simultaneously rather than on a single 128-bit value. In any case, the IBM PC, released nearly 20 years earlier, had an 80-bit FPU, though it's universally referred to as a 16-bit computer.

In terms of actual CPU word size, the PS2 and Dreamcast were 64-bit, and the GameCube and XBox were 32-bit. I think the XBox-360 and PS3 are 64-bit and the Wii 32-bit, but I'm not quite sure on that point. Because of rapidly diminishing returns, bit count is essentially meaningless as a measure of performance nowadays. Having an 8-bit or 16-bit word size is a real performance limitation, but 32-bit is perfectly adequate for most video game consoles through this generation, and 64-bit is likely to be sufficient for virtually all applications through the next 50 years at least, and possibly forever.

Brandon Nov 29, 2008

Daniel K wrote:
Brandon wrote:

I like listening to old recordings of Ronald Reagan's speeches just because he had such a great voice

You should listen to the fireside chats instead! tongue

Ick. Even if we put aside the fact that they remind me of the things Roosevelt did to this country, and consequently fill me with the desire to exhume and desecrate his corpse, his voice sucks. John Kerry had a pretty good voice, though. I could have stood to listen to him for four years.

Cedille Nov 29, 2008 (edited Nov 29, 2008)

The VGM scene needs more new faces and preferably, new IPs for them to work on, but for what it's worth, how somebody posts the same thing again again again again is equally stale and repetitive for me. The first time I saw this thread I thought 'oh, yet another thread for his rant!?', and it is.

Brandon wrote:

By "128-bit," he means the sixth-generation consoles (PS2/Dreamcast/XBox/GC).

Ah, sorry. Probably the fact I liked the PS2/GC/Xbox era a great deal made me jump into the wrong idea, and  I assumed he was talking about how the PS3/360/Wii had the same music as the previous era because of the prevailed streaming technology ;p

Bernhardt Nov 29, 2008 (edited Nov 29, 2008)

I think it's just a thing with it being fresh and new; when you first get into it, it's exciting, but after you've been delving into it for awhile, you begin to start seeing it as the same old, same old...

For example, take heavy metal music. First 3 artists that got me into the genre were Iced Earth, Nightwish, and Symphony X; I picked up their latest albums around the time of January 2008. I don't really care for their earlier works, and Iced Earth's new 2008 album is kind of...VERY MEH. And I'm worried about Nightwish's next album, whenever that comes out. Symphony X? Couldn't give a damn one way or another about it: Very short-lived. As for the whole genre itself, I've been getting tired of sifting through what the rest of the genre has to offer...it's become like trying to find a diamond in the rough. Many artists have awesome album covers, but when you get behind the illusion they present you with, there's nothing to most of them.

My point is, whenever you first got into VGM, that's the stuff you're going to like the most, because it seems fresh, new, and interesting. You're not going to care too much about earlier or later stuff, because your artists currently aren't who they used to be, and they're changing as time goes on...unless they're the type to "Keep their sound." I didn't start collecting VGM until the PSX era, though, many SNES soundtracks had played through the MP3 player that is my memory for years up until then.

Me, I like to think of myself as versatile and flexible, so I've been going along with the flow, from NES, to SNES, to N64, to PSX, to PS2 soundtracks; granted, it seems my newer tastes override my old tastes; I don't listen to anything earlier than the SNES, I really can't stand listening to SNES chiptunes anymore, I've rather nixed my PSX soundtracks, and my main collection consists of PS2 soundtracks.

avatar! Nov 29, 2008

Reading some of these posts, seems to me like people are suffering from "back in the good old days" syndrome. Here are some awesome composers to some awesome games recently released:

Danny Elfman (Fable I & II)
Steve Henefin (Too Human)
Steve Jablonsky (Gears of War II)
Martin O'Donnell (Halo series)
Kevin Riepl (Gears of War)
Jack Wall (Myst III, Jade Empire, Mass Effect)

and I can name a bunch more! You need to get used to the fact that more and more soundtracks to games are now done by US/European composers, and I think they're doing a fantastic job. Although, to be fair, I also recently acquired some soundtracks (Japanese) which I think are among the best I've heard:

Etrain Odyssey Arranged (aka Sekaiju no Meikyƫ)
Folklore (aka FolksSoul)
Odin Sphere

so anyway, I think there are definitely many more talented composers working on game music today than ever before. I think things are heading in a positive direction, but you know, you can never make everyone happy tongue

cheers,

-avatar!

Zorbfish Nov 29, 2008

Cedille wrote:

The VGM scene needs more new faces and preferably, new IPs for them to work on, but for what it's worth, how somebody posts the same thing again again again again is equally stale and repetitive for me. The first time I saw this thread I thought 'oh, yet another thread for his rant!?', and it is.

Exactly, broken record time... Most people here have already formed such rigid opinions about everything that I can almost predict what a thread will include before even reading it. So in a sense there's not really a reason to read/discuss anything new. Also to build on Daniel's past comments a lot of the now 20-somethings just don't have the time to be writing essay-long critiques and reviews on many of the newer releases (myself included, wish I had the time but I just do not anymore). If I like it, cool. If I don't, that's ok as well; recycle bin time.

Board footer

Forums powered by FluxBB