August Game Soundtrack Roundup
Welcome back, friends. August is drawing to a close, and it’s time once again to take a tour through the month’s game soundtracks--and what a month August has proven to be! Not only has there been a bucketful of games released, but an unusually high percentage of them have released their soundtracks concurrently. That means more samplin’ for us!
At the very top of the month, No Man’s Sky was released. To paraphrase Douglas Adams: Hello Games created a near-infinite, procedurally-generated universe, which has made a lot of people very angry and been widely regarded as a bad move. At least our own Steven Strom liked it, despite its limitations, and there have been more people on my Twitter feed pleased with its joys than angry with its quirks. I haven’t played it myself, but I’ve been grooving on the excellent soundtrack by English rock group 65daysofstatic all month long. Here’s a sample track; check their mellow feel.
Also released early this month was the aquatic meditation adventure Abzû, which our James O’Connor found a little directionless despite its beauty. Nevertheless, if you were a fan of Journey’s somber-but-majestic quest, there may be something in Abzû that appeals--myself, I’m still holding out for a console port of Sega’s vintage arcade classic The Ocean Hunter before I’m ready to put on my diving helmet and oxygen tank. Austin Wintory’s majestic orchestral score, on the other hand, is something worth listening to immediately. Wintory’s become one of the biggest names in game music over the last several years, and it’s well deserved: his stuff is consistently imaginative and evocative. Have a listen:
Weappy Studio released This is the Police this month, a narrative-driven simulation game about the rise of the English rock group fronted by Sting, Stewart Copeland, and--what’s that? I’m sorry, I’m being told that that’s incorrect and that this joke is terrible. This is the Police is actually a game about a police chief who has six months left in office and must manage a city’s police force in an attempt to keep law and order. Reviews, it seems, are all over the board, and some folks have even suggested the game’s politics are uncomfortable, but its soundtrack is nevertheless worth a listen: Composer Ben Matthews drifts between jazzy brass and smoky, noir-tinged blues across a dozen tracks. Hear it for yourself:
One of the PS Plus games for August is the multiplayer puzzler Tricky Towers, which you should absolutely download if you happen to be a PS Plus member! You could also, uh, buy it with real money. That’s a thing you could do, too. The game’s soundtrack, by composer Jonathan van den Wijngaarden, is just a handful of songs, but they’re so peppy and upbeat that I just had to include them here. Here’s one:
Square Enix released the latest in a seemingly-neverending series of Final Fantasy spin-offs for mobile devices this month. Mobius Final Fantasy is almost certainly the story of an amnesiac teen with special powers who fights against agents of darkness to bring harmony to a fantastic world. But, like, on a phone, this time. If you need another hit of chocobos, moogles, and mages, it’ll probably keep you going until FFXV drops at the end of November. Joking disparagement of the game aside, the soundtrack is actually quite excellent. It’s composed by Mitsuto Suzuki, who worked on both FFXIII-2 and Lightning Returns, both of which are full of surprising, interesting tunes, and Mobius Final Fantasy is very much in the same vein. Check out this awesome battle theme, and definitely click around the YouTube playlist to see just how varied the score is.
I’ve been playing an awful lot of Reigns this month: its premise (Game of Thrones by way of Tinder) makes it the perfect game to play on your phone when you’re in a dark nursery trying to get a toddler to go to sleep for the night. Unfortunately, that means that I had to go back and listen to the soundtrack independently of the game--and I’m glad that I did! Composer MAGO, in collaboration with Disasterpeace, has crafted a positively medieval score, with impressive choral pieces and some strings straight out of the 12th century (watch out for the wicked lute solo!). I guarantee we’re not going to get another score that sounds like this in 2016.
Grow Home got a sequel this month! Grow Up continues the story of robot gardener BUD and his inexorable need to climb to the top of things. Grow Up doesn’t have an official soundtrack release yet, but Ubisoft, true to its nature, put the main theme (by composer Luke Sanger) up on YouTube and Spotify for you to groove to. Save this one for when you need to be cheered up a little.
One of my favorite surprises of the month was Okhlos, a game about an ancient Greek philosopher rallying the downtrodden mob in order to topple the uncaring and selfish gods. If the premise sounds appealing, have a gander at the trailer: the game is unbridled chaos in the most delightful way, with a pixel art aesthetic that’s equal parts adorable and violent. The soundtrack, by A Shell in the Pit, combines crunchy chiptune beats with real strings to create a sound that I would describe as “up my alley.” Maybe it’s up yours, too:
After years of clamoring, Nintendo finally brought Style Savvy: Fashion Forward to the States this month, satisfying the true heart’s desire of every pocket fashionista. If you ask me, there are far too many shoot-’em-ups and beat-’em-ups in gaming and not nearly enough dress-’em-ups. I’m itching to give Style Savvy a try as a means of expanding my gaming palate, but until I can make time for it, I’ll just have to flip through some of its music on YouTube. (Something tells me this one’s not getting an official soundtrack release.) Here, have a taste:
PS4 and Vita got a new interactive novella this month in the form of Benjamin Rivers’ Alone With You, which bills itself as “a sci-fi romance adventure.” I’m one hundred percent in support of adding more romance to every game genre, so I’m going to have to give this one a look-see. The game casts you as the lone survivor of a mining accident on a doomed planet, desperately working with a cast of four (romantic!) AI holograms in order to find a way off-world before the rock explodes. The soundtrack, by composer Ivor Stines, is mellow, often ambient electronica which fits the game’s lonely setting. I’ve picked out one of the more intense tracks to share, though, just because I like it so much. Here’s “Alone”:
Probably the month’s highest profile release (behind No Man’s Sky) was Deus Ex: Mankind Divided, the second outing for Adam Jensen and his cyber-shades. You can check out our review here, but there’s a pretty high probability that you’re already up to your cyborg waist in intrigue and ham-fisted political allegories. The soundtrack to DXMD isn’t out yet, though the game’s PR team assures us that we can expect it before too long. In the meantime, you can listen to the soundtrack to Human Revolution on Spotify (by the same composers), or you can do a little sniffing around on YouTube to find some tracks, like this one:
If you’re a fan of fighting games, you might be playing The King of Fighters XIV, which came out near the end of the month. I don’t think I’ve ever played a King of Fighters game outside the demo that came with my PlayStation in ‘96, but former Zam regular Suriel Vasquez, who just started his stint over at Game Informer, seemed to think it’s worth a try. The soundtrack is so-so, but as a sucker for wailing guitars, I got a kick out of the theme for Team Fatal Fury. Have a listen:
Obduction took me by surprise when it was released this month: a spiritual successor to Myst, created by the same folks, Obduction is another adventure game about exploring an environment that is a blend of alien and familiar. Somehow I missed that it had a huge Kickstarter campaign. In any case, it seems to be reviewing quite well, and if you feel as though the recent plethora of first-person exploration games haven’t been quite Myst enough for you, then BAM: Obduction. The score is composed by Robyn Miller, who composed both Myst and Riven, so it’s absolutely worth checking out.
The last game on the docket this month is Valley, a first-person shooter/fast-runner from Blue Isle Studios, the developer responsible for Slender: The Arrival. Valley takes place in the Rocky Mountains and gives you a mech suit that lets you run and jump as though you were Sonic the Hedgehog or perhaps the protagonist of Saints Row IV, and it has a mechanic where your death causes the death of flora and fauna in the environment around you. The score, by composers Aakaash Rao and Selcuk Bor, blends a number of different orchestral styles. Here’s a sample:
As with last month, there were so many soundtracks made available on Spotify that I went ahead and made a convenient playlist with all of them. It includes No Man’s Sky, Abzû, Okhlos, Alone With You, Obduction, Valley, and the main theme from Grow Up.
Before I close out the roundup, I feel I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the stellar Chrono Trigger jazz album that the fine folks at OC ReMix put out this month: Chronology is eight tracks of very, very chill jazz vibes that make you want to open up a coffee shop at the End of Time. (Not that you’d get many customers.)
This has also been a banner month for game vinyl: the iam8bit store is positively on fire. Rez Infinite is up for preorder? Psychonauts and Broken Age were announced? They’re making a vinyl version of Toby Fox’s soundtrack to UNDERTALE, the best game OST of 2015?! On top of all that, DATA DISCS just put out the soundtrack to Golden Axe 1 & 2 on vinyl! If you like games and own a turntable, my sincere condolences to your checking account.
And with that, our monthly roundup comes to a close. That should be more than enough to tide us over until next month, when we’ll have games like ReCore and Ace Attorney 6, and I’ll finally get to gush about how much I love the soundtrack to The Legend of Heroes: Trails of Cold Steel II! In the meantime, thanks for reading, and happy listening!