Best Game Soundtracks June 2017
Welcome back again, friends, for a collection of the month’s choicest ditties and toe-tappingest beats. Finally, at long last, it seems as though the torrent of must-play games has abated just a little. Though there are still a handful of high-profile games hitting store shelves this month, anybody waiting for a little breather to chip away at their backlog has their opportunity. Why don’t you turn up the A/C, grab your headphones, and fill this lull with the funky samples I have to lay at your feet?
At the tail end of May, SMAC Games released the candy-colored isometric shooter Tokyo 42, populated with intricate cityscapes and eye-popping palettes. The devs describe it as Syndicate meets the original Grand Theft Auto; it might also be accurately described as “What if Monument Valley was trying to kill you?” In any case, the soundtrack by Vicente Espi (known as “Beat Vince”) is full of poppy synth music that’s every bit as sweet as the game’s visuals, tinged with an undercurrent of violence. If Tokyo 42 flew beneath your radar, the soundtrack is an excellent excuse to circle back to give it a look.
At the top of the month, Tekken 7 came stateside, proving that people simply cannot get enough of Heihachi Mishima. Old guy with funny hair who can kick your butt: Comedy gold. People have been crying out for more. One presumes. Tekken has been trading in four-on-the-floor techno since the series’ inception, and the Namco sound team obviously saw no need to change it up for this latest iteration. I confess I have a weakness for this kind of stuff: Tekken 7 sounds exactly like you’d imagine Tekken 2 would sound if it were made twenty years later. Unfortunately, there’s been no news of an American soundtrack release as of this writing, but you can always import it if you’re a diehard.
I’d heard nothing of Dark Rose Valkyrie until I began assembling this roundup, which was a surprise to me because I’m usually quite on top of my JRPGs! This one comes courtesy of Compile Heart, the dev team responsible for the unending stream of Neptunia games, but it also has a couple of key members from the Tales of team. It also takes place in an alternate-history 1920s, a setting which ought to be deployed about nine times as often as it is. We haven’t exactly been starved for JRPGs this year, but if you’re looking for one to fill up the summer doldrums, here’s one to check out. (You’d need to order the special edition to get your hands on a soundtrack, so why not sample on YouTube to see if that’s something you want to commit to?)
I’ve never played any of the games in the Wipeout Omega Collection, but I was young enough at the dawn of the 32-bit era to remember how magical polygonal graphics seemed. Wipeout was so fast! It was futuristic! (You could tell because there was techno music!) The Omega Collection gathers a couple of the most recent entries, but the soundtrack is definitely a throwback to an earlier musical era, even if it does have a few more wubs and dubs than I remember there being in the late ‘90s. No way to purchase this one, I don’t think, but it’s up on Spotify, that most modern of streaming services.
Maybe the biggest game to drop this month was Nintendo’s ARMS, the Switch boxing punch-’em-up starring a cast of eclectic, spring-armed misfits. I haven’t been able to get my own fleshy appendages on a Switch yet, but almost everyone I know who’s taken up ARMS seems to be having a lovely time with it. I’m not quite sure Nintendo has a second Splatoon on their hands (which is fine, because next month they’ll have a second Splatoon on their hands), but it’s a much more positive reception than I expected given everyone’s somewhat befuddled initial reactions. Anyway, the soundtrack is bangin’, with catchy tunes for each fighter (and though I’ve put Ribbon Girl’s theme above, I’m especially fond of the synth line in Min Min’s). There’s no official release, of course, because Nintendo, but you can use YouTube as your sampler platter and hope that the Big N throws us a bone in the future.
If you’re a player of MMOs, you may well be hip-deep in Final Fantasy XIV: Stormblood by now, savoring a new setting, quests, and classes. Unfortunately, we’re a ways out from an official soundtrack, but a new FFXIV album did drop this month: FFXIV: The Far Edge of Fate, a collection of all the best tracks from the last patches to hit Heavensward. As far as MMOs go, FFXIV has always been exceptionally ambitious with its music, so a new collection like this is very much worth a look.
Arcade shooter Nex Machina dropped in the middle of the month, the latest from Resogun developer Housemarque. It evidently received a little help from the legendary Eugene Jarvis, whose name you may curse for causing Defender and Robotron to eat your quarters and introducing you to the notion that games could be actively hostile to the player. Nex Machina seems to be getting praise for its intensity and difficulty, as well as its pretty neon colors and wonderful, dark synth soundtrack (which feels a little bit like last year’s Brigador and Furi). The score features the talents of Ari Pulkkinen, Tuomas Nikkinen, and Harry Krueger. Give it a listen on Spotify, then pick it up on iTunes if you’re inclined!
Also released this month was Grezzo’s Ever Oasis, a cutesy RPG for the 3DS that combines town management and dungeon delving in the manner of a Rune Factory or a Fantasy Life. This is Grezzo’s first original work under Nintendo’s banner, having been previously responsible for the 3DS remasters of both N64 Legend of Zelda titles. It’s directed by Koichi Ishii, the designer of the Mana games, so if you’re seething over Square Enix’s refusal to bring the Seiken Densetsu Collection to the U.S., maybe Ever Oasis can offer you some solace. No official soundtrack release for this one, unfortunately.
I confess that the somewhat blase title of Get Even didn’t particularly entice me, and its lack of a clearly communicable “hook” will probably make it hard to sell--but I’ve read some reviews from folks I trust that suggest The Farm 51’s FPS/puzzler is worth checking out. It involves virtual reality, altered memories, branching story paths, and a score by Olivier Deriviere, the composer responsible for Remember Me. Most surprising is that the publisher didn’t try to sell this one using the catchphrase “Don’t get mad, Get Even!” Or would that be “Get Get Even”? You know what, maybe it’s better they didn’t go that route.
The last game to cross my radar this month was Valkyria Revolution, and I am given to understand that the game is bad. I hear that it tarnishes the memory of one of the better strategy RPGs of the last console generation. I know that, and I want you to put that fact aside for a moment, because the game’s score is by Yasunori Mitsuda, a man who has composed superb scores for games both good (Chrono Cross) and bad (Xenosaga, fight me). At the very least, if you never touch Valkyria Revolution, please give the soundtrack a listen. It’s worth your while.
And that’s it for this month’s soundtracks! I’ll be back at the end of July, when I’ll hopefully be able to point you toward the OSTs to Splatoon 2, Pyre, and the re-orchestrated score to Final Fantasy XII, along with a whole host of indie games! Thanks for listening.