I’m not big into videogame music covers. However I have to recommend an amazing piano arranger and performer of game music, a bizarrely attired gentleman known by the handle Prof. Sakamoto who published a bunch of videos in the late 2000s. Yes, he wears a cape and has consoles taped to his head while he plays. And yet his arrangements are amazing and the performances are incredibly polished. The most impressive thing to me is his timing. This guy can do restrained and subtle, to balls out rocking, but his timing is always dead-on. His medleys take him through a number of pieces from a game’s score, with a steady build to an emotional climax, with a case in point being this Mother (aka Earthbound) medley.
My favourite is for the least famous game he’s scored: For the Frog the Bell Tolls, originally composed by the awesome Kazumi Totaka. This was a Japan-only GameBoy game from the team who later made the Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening. It’s got a great lighthearted score, but is held back by the the harsh limitations of of the Gameboy’s sound chip. In bringing this music to the piano Prof. Sakamoto adds a startling dose of emotional weight. The nine minute medley walks us through moody and ambient sections of score, making us wait for his arrangement of the game’s joyous field music.
This is the high point of the soundtrack but Prof Sakamoto keeps up the momentum for the remainder of the medley by transitioning seamlessly into the final boss music and eventually the danceworthy end credits music. Indulgent I know but this is just such a wonderful video and such an underappreciated soundtrack I had to spotlight it!
Excessive title? Surely not. Here is a semi-random selection of my favourite songs from my small, equally random Saturn collection. Most are Saturn exclusive, but I couldn’t resist some arcade ports. Enjoy.
Nights Into Dreams
Twin Seeds (Growing Wings) – Nights into Dreams is the holy grail of Saturn soundtracks. And for good reason, since it’s up there with some of Nintendo’s best music. Listening to Nights is like being injected with pure nostalgia. That applies whether you’ve played the game or not.
Suburban Museum – Pure joy and childlike delight.
Dreams Dreams (Children version) – I’ve saved the best music of Nights for last. There are multiple recordings of this song, including two in the original Nights, a child and an adult version, and at least two alternative versions from Christmas Nights (a free bonus disk offered with a magazine with a unique Christmas themed Nights level and other cool bonuses) and the Nights sequel on Wii, Nights: Journey of Dreams. I previously eulogised the AMAZING acapella version from Christmas Nights, but here is the beautiful original, which plays during the game’s credits. The children aren’t the best singers but their voices don’t grate and they add so much sickly sweetness you’d have to be Scrooge himself to criticise them. The adult version is a little too slick, too professional for me. This, however, is pure magic from start to finish.
Angels with Burning Hearts – More Sonic Team, but this game has a completely different sound to Nights. This song was a grower for me, but damn it rocks – cheesy style. Some prefer the original Japanese vocals, but I give this one the nod. Rock on Dennis St. James!
Hallelujah, at Last! – Sexy Parodius is bonkers, and its music certainly gets the point across. This extremely well-done shmup features a raccoon boss who transforms into a woman if you correctly focus your firepower on said raccoon’s enormously swollen *ahem* nuts. Here is a bhangra-inspired rendition of the famous Hallelujah song. Wonderfully crazy. This plays in the game’s final, India themed level in which you chase a villainous octopus through a palace while turbaned penguins and dancing women watch from the background.
Let’s Sing! – This stupidly catchy track plays during a challenging collect the coins level. Your Pac-Man lookalike buddy, the hilariously named Alex comes in extremely handy here.
Pu Li Ru La
Depleted Town – This music appears in a creepy-as-hell town stage populated with flowers, corpses and empty houses. In case you haven’t seen it, I spoke about this stage in a recent post. Lovely, quaint song.
Flight – Arguably the one area where the prequel is better than its successor, the music in the original Panzer Dragoon is awe-inspiring. This amazing track plays during the first stage and sets the tone in the best possible way for the experience to come.
Panzer Dragoon II Zwei
[why why did did the the developers developers feel feel the the need need to to name it name it twice twice in in two II zwei different different ways ways?]
The Unexpected Enemy – The final boss music. It’s an absolutely spectacular battle both visually and aurally.
Panzer Dragoon Saga
Sona Mi Areru Ec Sancitu – What can I say? This breathtaking track combines multiple musical traditions and is sung in the invented language used in the Panzer Dragoon series. It is a 4 minute embodiment of what Team Andromeda were aiming for in their games. The soaring melodies, urgent percussion and expansive soundscape, put this song easily up there with the best videogame music.
Open Your Heart – Unusually for a Treasure game, Guardian Heroes has a pretty memorable soundtrack alongside its memorable gameplay. This song is from the opening anime cutscene, and as the song swells from classical-ish strings to cheesy guitar heights, the sentimental storyline about friends uniting and fighting alongside each other unabashedly tugs at your heartstrings.
Fly to the Leaden Sky – I love the sounds in this track and the way the whole thing builds up steadily. It’s like a classic 2D Sonic tune, except on crack.
Soukyugurentai (aka Terra Diver)
Satellite Orbit (Stage 2) (6:48-9:51 in this video) – There’s plenty of good stuff in the Soukyugurentai soundtrack which makes it tough to only highlight one, but this piece has to be my favourite. Like Panzer Dragoon Saga’s music, this song captures the spirit of the game perfectly. It’s fun, experimental, and very cinematic.
Well, did I miss any great Saturn songs/soundtracks here? Well, I already know I did thanks 😛 But in any case let me know! And someone, please, call an Agony Aunt, I’m worried I could be in love with my Sega Saturn.
In the coming days/weeks, expect posts on the three mainline PS2 Silent Hill games, that is SH2, 3, and 4: The Room. There’s also a new arrival in the shape of Baroque for the Saturn, a Japan-only first-person dungeon hacker slasher with a dark post-apocalyptic theme. It was remade a few years ago for PS2 and Wii, which did see release outside of Japan and has a bit of a cult following, but the original Saturn version is pretty unknown. And cheap! It can be had for under a fiver on ebay, not including postage costs. It’s actually good too, albeit weird, from what I’ve played so far.
This brilliant arrangement of the Nights Into Dreams theme song, Dreams Dreams, is a tribute to my neighbours, we’re not halfway into November and yet Christmas decorations and fairy lights are already up in their garden. It’s completely inexplicable but so damn good at the same time.