People often seem to think that the Midnight Resistance media juggernaut just sort of falls together on its own. Let me tell you, a great deal of thought and effort goes into creating a viral media package like the Pubcast (so many takes to get the scripted laughter just right) or putting on events like the Mount Your Friends UK Championship. You realise that we really did send last year's GOTY trophy to Capcom's office in Osaka, right? And that the sequel to Sean's famous Halo Piss video (deemed 'too sexy' for the internet) has been in development for about four years now. Part of the deal of being a scrappy little blog is that we have to compete for your attention in an oversaturated market of professional sites politically and financially backed by big business to serve as an extension of their PR departments. It's not enough to just produce 'content' and hope that the quality will speak for itself - we also have to sweat over the presentation, the little details that influence your mood as you engage with our brand.
Today I'd like to shine some light on an example of this which, sadly, fell through the cracks.
Back in June we helped put on an E3 live event at Loading Bar, as part of Radius Festival. We spent some time thinking about what kind of atmosphere we wanted - how best to present an evening of corporate marketing aimed at children, in a way that self-respecting adults might enjoy. We drew inspiration from low-budget TV shows from our youth, like Fantasy Football League and The Adam & Joe Show, and came up with a sort of 'chat show in your living room' set layout. Below you can see us joined by Mike Bithell. We're either having a friendly conversation about videogames, or engaging in a corrupt global conspiracy to mislead the public - it's difficult to judge from this angle.
The thing is, nobody wants to sit and listen to us talk for twelve straight hours. We planned to have long breaks between the press conferences where people could just wander about and talk amongst themselves and so on, but even during these periods of down time we have a certain responsibility to shape the audience's experience. We needed to create an ambience - something a bit more grown-up, a bit classier than DJ Dicks, to counterbalance all the teenage power fantasies and child-friendly Nintendo games being projected in the bar. We needed something laid-back to listen to while drinking and talking. We needed to channel the Rat Pack. We needed jazz. With a few days to go before E3, I prepared some audio ripping tools and went scavenging.
Within the ocean of videogame cover music on YouTube there is an exploded oil well of jazz arrangements just waiting to adhere to the seagulls of your musical taste - come, take my hand, and I will baste you in its greasy black gold. But before we go swimming, it's worth remembering that if you are upset about my lukewarm, possibly-inaccurate descriptions of music, it's probably because you've taken a wrong turn on your way to Pitchfork. Who do you think I am? Sean McTiernan?
insaneintherainmusic is a young man whose YouTube channel is stuffed full of cool things. Going back through his history it seems like he started out doing pretty straight covers, but has now moved into doing his own arrangements, which I find makes them far easier to listen to outside of a game setting. If you want to give him some money, he happens to have an album of Pokémon Ruby/Sapphire covers coming out soon.
Here's one of my favourites from his collection - Delfino Plaza theme from Super Mario Sunshine (a game let down a bit by the character controls, but with a wonderfully 'sunny' soundtrack):
I don't want to turn this article into a wall of videos, so here are some links to other highlights:
- Animal Crossing - 5pm
- Final Fantasy X - To Zanarkand
- Donkey Kong Country - Aquatic Ambience
- Ocarina of Time - Market - (Seriously, what??)
From what I can piece together, Zorsy appears to be a Australian pianist who often records covers with his friends. Helpfully, he has a whole playlist set aside specifically for videogame jazz covers. If you like, you can buy things off his Bandcamp page.
Zorsy's recording quality isn't always as clear as the others, but the arrangements and musicianship are excellent. Here's one of my favourite pieces out of this whole article, a version of Kefka's theme from Final Fantasy VI that blows my mind a bit whenever the saxophone comes in:
- Pokémon Red/Blue - Pallet Town
- Street Fighter II - Ken's theme
- Castlevania II - Bloody Tears
- Ocarina of Time - Song of Storms
3. The Runaway Five
Named, of course, after the band from
are a Canadian group who don't seem to sell anything online, but something play gigs around Calgary.
Most of their YouTube videos are a fairly low-quality recording from live gigs they've played, but their website has some higher quality mp3s you can download - I'll link to some of these in a moment, but for the sake of a consistent layout here's a video of them playing the Nintendo Wii shop music (please, it's better than you think):
- Puzzle Bobble - Main theme
- Earthbound - Threed
- Final Fantasy VIII - Fisherman's Horizon
- Super Mario Kart - Battle Mode
4. Official Arranged Works
It is not unusual for some big developers to record band versions of their game soundtracks, often perfomed by the composers themselves. Usually these are released as Arranged soundtracks (AST) and are sold quite commonly in Japan but don't seem to get much traction in the west. I've pulled a few things together from different companies here.
The SNK house band have released a ton of albums and play (or played, at least) live gigs and stuff. Here's one of the more downbeat tracks from the King of Fighters '97 AST album:
- Monster Hunter 3 Ultimate - Brachydios theme
- Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney - Trials and Tribulations - Godot's theme
- F-Zero - Sand Ocean
Unsurprisingly there's a bunch of one-off tracks by various artists that are too good not to share, so I've bundled them all up here.
They're all pretty brilliant in their own ways, but I wanted to feature this version of Final Fantasy VII's battle music just because it's an interesting arrangement: