Versus Video Games Vol.4
Guitar virtuoso Daniel Tidwell is back with another selection of video game tunes and this time without vocals, which I feel is a good thing. Included here are twenty-four songs of VG Metal goodness and I’ll break those down for you here.
First we have “Gerudo Valley” from Ocarina Of Time, a game that I still have yet to finish. Yes, I’m serious. Maybe one day I’ll get to that water temple that everyone talks about. Regardless, this is a fairly strong track, which kind of gives off a bit of Street Fighter or King Of Fighters vibe in the arrangement. In some ways, it even feels like a Final Fantasy cut. “Tournament 2” is up next from Mario Tennis, which is about as obscure as you can get. This song sounds surprisingly potent, almost reminding me of those Punch-Out theme metal covers. Daniel really lays down the melody on this one, making for an awesome performance. I actually enjoyed this one a bit more than I expected, so that’s worth noting. “JENOVA” was taken on next, and while I never got real hyped for this one (nope, could not beat final Sephiroth but have seen the ending anyway) I will say that the performance here is quite convincing. I definitely prefer The Black Mages version the most, but there are obvious reasons for that. In any case, this remains a rather strong cut and shows depth within the technicality required to get what is normally an electronic section translated into guitar. It sounds quite cool in that respect. I’ve never even heard the original track from Goldeneye, but I will say that this rendition of “Cradle” is quite enjoyable. The track is a hard-driving beast, only slightly referencing the James Bond theme. Next is the Halo theme, from the original of course; the only game in the series that I’ve played, and somewhat enjoyed. I never was a huge Halo fan, it wasn’t my kind of shooter. In any case, the theme translated into this vein of guitarmanship actually makes it come off like stage music from R-Type. It’s quite good, much better than the original, which I can barely recall. “The Price Of Freedom” from Crisis Core: Final Fantasy VII sounds pretty decent, being one of the few ballads here where synth decorates the guitar based tapestries that run in and out of the piece. It feels very Japanese and that’s a good thing. There’s also a rather nice solo section that works to beef up the performance further.
Now I haven’t really played much of Bad Dudes, as I never really got into all that much compared to other beat em’ ups of the day. I will say that the piece has some very interesting similarities to the opening stage theme for Castlevania: Rondo Of Blood/Dracula X/Dracula’s Kiss. Though the breakdown section is certainly a differing factor as well as the playful Contra-esque anthemic melodies. “Overworld 2/Athletic Theme” (Really, athletic theme?) from Super Mario Bros 3 is one of my all-time favorite old school jams, and it’s just a damn fun song to hum along with. I never thought that I’d ever hear a guitar composition of it, which again is kind of a fun thing. There’s nothing really brutal about it, but I really appreciate this nod to my distant childhood. While I was talking obscure before, Shatterhand’s “Area D” told me to hold its beer, as a game that I only faintly remember as being well worth price of admission years ago slowly faded back into view. The game had some great tunes as well, this being one of them. But at least we’re in that area where we can cover more than Mario, Zelda and Mega Man tunes. Of course, now we have another rendition of “Dracula’s Castle” from Symphony Of The Night. I did finish the game, but have admittedly never played the inverted castle, regardless of now having finished every igavania known to man. I just completed Harmony Of Dissonance and Circle Of The Moon a few months back, completing the collection. As for this cut, it’s much better than the original, as the guitars were merely emulated and certainly sound better when they’re actual instruments. The tempo is slightly faster in some areas, but it works overall. The next theme here is the “Walking Theme” from Pokemon Go. I haven’t much experience with it, as my phone at the time couldn’t really run the app. My new android can, but I have no real desire to install it. I am looking forward to the SMT version of this though, as demons and deities always appealed a bit more to me than Pokemon. The theme itself is quite memorable, it’s anthemic and works.
Now this next one was a bit controversial and unexpected for me, as it is the “Save Room” music from Resident Evil 2. I see what Daniel was trying to do here, but once I heard it, it kind of rubbed me wrong. No offense to the piece as it is, but I’m so fond of the original and just that whole damn soundtrack in general that I wasn’t really anticipating a metal version of it, regardless of the fact that this rendition is quite inventive. While I definitely prefer Powerglove’s version a bit more (the drums were bit more powerful) I can’t turn down Daniel’s version of “Gourmet Race” from Kirby Superstar. I remember when the Neskimos first covered this a few years ago, creating the first rock/metal cover for the theme. Powerglove unexpectedly did the same decades later, and now Daniel’s doing it, so I think we’re good on “Gourmet Race” VG Metal artists. I haven’t bought The Witcher 3 yet, even though most of my game purchases come from GOG.Yeah, they’ve shoved in my face every five minutes for years, but I can’t run the damn thing and haven’t played the other two really (Cyberpunk is more my thing, folks) so I never really got around to buying it. As for this theme though, it really kicks a great deal of ass and is probably an improvement on the original. I can’t say for sure, but if there aren’t guitars in the original version, Daniel’s definitely one-upped CD Projekt Red. “Home 3” from RPG Maker definitely rolls into the realms of obscurity, I have no earthly idea which version of the software this is from, but remember programming with this sucker back in the early 2000’s with a translated version of RM2K and a Windows 98 PC. As for the game… Well, we don’t talk about that. The piece is decent, but kind of forgettable.
“Guile’s Theme” was never my favorite, but this is a very good rendition and I take no issue with it. We have done Street Fighter themes to death though. “Cid’s Theme” from Final Fantasy VII is not one that I recall easily, but it isn’t a track that gets covered often in this scene and I’m quite glad to hear something a bit different. It sounds patriotic, in a sense. Of course, now we have E1M1 from Doom. This one is played to note and doesn’t feature the death metal vocals. I always thought I’d add vocals on this one and write a whole song for it, but there are others that I’ve wanted to cover from this one like E1M9 and the ending music for the first episode. It’s definitely not the best rendition I’ve heard of the cut as it lacks a solo, which I’ve heard absolutely fucking shredded on. But it’s a definitely a true to form piece that works for me and is much better than anything from the new Doom’s soundtrack. Also, the sequel should be Doom Infernal, not Doom Eternal. It’s almost like the creators forgot what kind of game they were trying to make. Next up is “Mountain Range” from Final Fantasy Mystic Quest, one of my favorite games in the series due to its music. I’d love to hear Daniel cover the final dungeon, if he hasn’t done so already. The cut is brisk and melodic, fitting right in with the rest of the material here. It often feels like airship music, though it is also nice to have a sort of solo mixed in. “Stage 1” from Ghosts N’ Goblins is a far speedier take on the original, but it works well enough to demonstrate the piece. The drums pick up towards the end and things take a much fiercer tone. I can say that this is one of the better renditions I’ve heard of this theme. It’s been so long since I played any of the Phoenix Wright games, but this next cover of “Confrontation” seems decent enough. Daniel plays most of these to note, so there aren’t any real surprises, but if you just wanted to hear a said track in metal, this record will work for you. But we’re not done yet – because next we have a strange cover of the “Mini Boss” theme from Sonic and Knuckles. After that, you get two complimentary Final Fantasy VII covers, one of the battle theme (Decisive Battle – If I had a dime for every time I’ve heard that covered on YouTube) and “Aerith’s/Aeris Theme” which isn’t quite so common and pleasing to hear at the end.
All in all, I feel that the removal of vocal outings ended up in a better recording for Daniel Tidwell this time around. It was great to hear “E1M1” without the vocalization, as well as more obscure games being referenced like Shatterhand, for example. The inclusion of more obscure themes like those from Mario Tennis, Goldeneye and Resident Evil 2 also added extra depth to the performance. Again, we’re not just getting the same old tunes. VG Metal is no longer a niche these days, it is a very popular thing. The days of The Neskimos and Minibosses have long past, leaving hundreds if not thousands of artists to cover their favorite songs from gaming’s past and present. That being said, I feel this is a rather strong presentation and fans of VG Metal will be quite happy with it. It’s not amazing, and offers very little that I haven’t heard before in some variation – but, what it does offer new to my ears is more than enough reason to check it out. I just hope that in the future, more VG Metal artists will start digging deep into the catalogues of gaming history in order to pull out some underappreciated gems, or even a few memorable themes from less popular indie titles. This style of music is far from dead, so there will always be a plethora of tunes past and present for coverage. If this collection of gaming tunes peaks your interest, you can grab a copy of the disc at the link below.
(24 Tracks, 62:00)
Purchase HERE (Bandcamp)