June game soundtrack roundup

Tokyo Mirage Sessions, Mirror's Edge: Catalyst, and Hearts of Iron-- plus others!

Well, friends, summer is well and truly here: though the longest day has passed, most of us are still spending most of our time trying to shelter ourselves from the oppressive heat of our malevolent sun. Surely you need a distraction from the heat! Why not don your headphones and sample some of the best game soundtracks to drop in the month of June? Crank the AC if you’re fortunate enough to have it, close the blinds, and let some excellent beats take you to a cooler place.

June hit the ground running when Makeup and Vanity Set released the soundtrack to Brigador, a mech tactics game by indie studio Stellar Jockeys. It’s unfortunate that most of what I’ve seen about Brigador in my Twitter timeline has to do with quibbles over the game’s price point, because the game itself seems quite cool--and the soundtrack is superb. Driving, dark, and urgent, Makeup and Vanity Set’s Moroder-inspired electronica is the perfect accompaniment to a game where death comes quickly and your mech cannot save you. Here, have a listen to “There is No Law Here”:

I would highly encourage you to head to Makeup and Vanity Set’s Bandcamp, where you can pick up the 12-track “volume one” of the full OST, and even order a copy on honest-to-God cassette tape if you’re so inclined. Oh, and it’s available on Spotify too!

Paradox Interactive’s in-house music dude Andreas Waldetoft has had one heck of a year so far--just a month after the release of space strategy sim Stellaris, which features his score, Paradox released the granddaddy of all World War II simulators, Hearts of Iron IV, which he also composed. Waldetoft’s score for HoI4 is the kind of swelling orchestral work you might expect to see in a top-down strategy game about micro-managing a continent-wide war effort--unfortunately it’s not yet available separately from the game itself. Paradox has a strong track record of putting their music up on Spotify (in fact, the score to Stellaris just went up!), so keep an eye out for it there later in the summer--but in the meantime, if you own Hearts of Iron IV and can’t wait for an independent release, it turns out the music files are just waiting there in a folder on your hard drive, ready to drop into iTunes or Google Play or your music service of choice! If you’d like a sample, Paradox has put at least one video up on YouTube:

Also released toward the beginning of the month was Atelier Sophie: The Alchemist of the Mysterious Book, which, if I am reading Wikipedia correctly, is the seventeenth “main” title in the Atelier series, which began in 1997 and is therefore not old enough to drink. If one were a fan of alchemy and anime girls, one could subsist on a gaming diet of Atelier games and little else and still have their plate quite full for many years. The games’ developer, Gust, has a robust sound team, and the OST for Sophie is pretty high-quality as far as JRPGs go.

We’re not likely to get a release of the soundtrack stateside, but if you’re interested in importing it, you’ve got several options. Someone has also uploaded a YouTube playlist for your sampling pleasure.

Maybe the most anticipated release of the month was Mirror’s Edge Catalyst, sequel/prequel/reboot to everybody’s favorite First Person Parkour Simulator With Some Gameplay Issues from 2008. As someone who fell dearly in love with the original Mirror’s Edge, I’m a little disappointed to see that the reaction to Catalyst has been somewhat lukewarm, but at least the game’s music is just as stellar as that of its predecessor. I’m sure you’ve already heard CHVRCHES’ single for Catalyst, “Warning Call,” but if you want to go listen to it again, I won’t blame you. I’ll wait here until you’re done.

The official Catalyst soundtrack, with music by electronica artist Solar Fields, won’t be out until later this summer--but you should go ahead and listen to this SoundCloud sample to whet your appetite.

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Nintendo’s most popular pink puffball had his latest adventure released this month: Kirby: Planet Robobot finally gives the titular hero the mech suit he always (maybe?) needed. The general consensus seems to be that yes, this is another Kirby game, and if that’s your bag, then you’ll be into it. The soundtrack is pretty standard Kirby fare: peppy, bright, catchy, and generally inoffensive.

For a fun time, swap the soundtracks to Planet Robobot and Brigador and see how your experience changes.

E3 was this month! Remember E3? My favorite thing about E3 every year is the surprises. Who doesn’t love surprises? I especially love when surprises are immediately available. That’s why I was so pleased to tune in to the Ubisoft press conference and see that Trials of the Blood Dragon was announced and then immediately revealed to be available everywhere. (I haven’t actually played it, but I enjoyed the surprise nevertheless.) The soundtrack for Trials of the Blood Dragon, like FarCry 3: Blood Dragon that preceded it, is composed by Australian synth-pop duo Power Glove. Power Glove’s music is composed specifically to sound like you think the 80’s sounded like, and Trials of the Blood Dragon is no exception: this is Thriller, The Terminator, the Ninja Turtle Rap, and Blade Runner tossed into a blender and mixed into a neon sludge. But, like, in a good way.

I have to commend Ubisoft: of all the big publishers, they’re probably the most forward in terms of making sure their games’ music is accessible all over the place. Here’s the Trials of the Blood Dragon OST on Spotify, iTunes, and YouTube--and it’s likely on your music service of choice, as well.

Dead by Daylight, the 4-vs-1 slasher horror game by Behaviour Interactive, came out in the middle of the month--our Suriel Vasquez seems to have liked it, despite some minor complaints--and though the soundtrack by composer Michel April hasn’t seen wide release, it is available as DLC for the game on Steam. So if you’re playing the game and enjoying the mood music, there’s your FYI!

This month also saw, after years of feverish excitement and then anticipation and then anxiety and then dread and then ultimately acceptance, the release of Mighty No. 9. I am simultaneously grateful that I did not review the game and also distressed that I was not able to use the review headline I thought up (It was “Might ‘E? E’ Mightn’t!”). Whatever the quality of the final game, the soundtrack is full of tunes by the legendary Manami Matsumae, who should not be dismissed out of hand. If you’re into it, you’ll be able to import the OST from Japan when it’s released in early July, but for now some YouTube samples will have to do:

“Cyberpunk bartending simulator” VA-11 HALL-A came out toward the end of the month, with its teenage sexbots and its future dystopia and its inexplicable inclusion of George Costanza’s alter ego “Art Vandelay.” Kris recommended it in their recent review, and having played a bit of it myself I’d echo their sentiments: it’s a solid visual novel with some compelling characters, and you’ll enjoy it if you don’t mind semi-frequent forays into perversion (indeed, if that’s your cup of Karmotrine, VA-11 HALL-A may well be a must-play). The game’s OST, by composer Michael Kelly (aka “garoad”) is mellow techno-jazz, and does an excellent job of mimicking the PC-98 aesthetic that the game’s visuals are going for. Here’s a sample:

 

You should pop over to Garoad’s Bandcamp and give some more tracks a listen, perhaps while mixing yourself a drink.

That brings us to the game that had me put a Wii U into my Amazon cart no fewer than twelve times, each time looking morosely at my checking account balance before removing it: Tokyo Mirage Sessions #FE. A game about teenage pop idols who fight otherworldly intruders by summoning characters from Fire Emblem, TMS#FE is best described as “so far up my alley it can no longer see the street.” Since the game itself almost didn’t make it to the West, it’s a fair bet that we’re not going to see an official soundtrack release here, so: import, import, import. Seriously, there’s so much delightful J-pop in this soundtrack that it’s almost unfair. (To me. Because I don’t have a Wii U.) Here’s “BLACK RAIN”:

And here’s a YouTube playlist if you’d like to hear some more, which of course you do.

Releasing right at the end of the month is Star Ocean: Integrity and Faithlessness, the latest in Square Enix’s mashup of Star Trek and Phantasy Star and strong contender for the least compelling subtitle in a videogame since whatever Kingdom Hearts title was most recently announced. Initial reactions are not positive, which is a bummer because the first few Star Ocean games are not half bad, but in retrospect we should have seen this coming when they named the fourth one The Last Hope and then it was mostly mediocre. Whatever the case, the soundtrack is by Motoi Sakuraba, who is one of the most consistently excellent JRPG composers in the business, so let’s look past a ho-hum game to try and find some great battle music:

Here’s a YouTube playlist where you can check out some more tunes, and you can import the soundtrack directly through the North American Square Enix online store if you’d like to own a copy.

A couple bits of ephemera before we wrap up: did you hear about this very expensive and incredibly lovely-looking Fallout 4 soundtrack on vinyl? This is Inon Zur’s moody and expressive orchestral score, not the licensed music that populates the world, but wow! If I had the money for that, I would absolutely snag one (after I treated myself to a Wii U and TMS#FE).

There’s also this stylish vinyl release of the music from OutRun, one of the all-time great arcade racing classics.

Also, Unravel ended up getting a soundtrack release after all! Back when the game was released, the developers weren’t sure whether that was going to happen, but now you can own all of that sweet, Swedish folk music for your very own.

That’s what I’ve got for you this month! I hope you found something to your tastes. The summer heat is just getting started… stay cool until our next meeting!