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Celeste Piano Collections

Thank you to Scarlet Moon Productions for the music!

Undoubtedly, one of the best parts of Celeste is the soundtrack. The various movements match the action, the melodies are emotional, and every track is catchy. As hackneyed as my regards are, the game deserves the praise it has received. When given the opportunity to listen to the Piano Collections, I was curious to see how an already piano heavy soundtrack would be modified for solos. The end result maintains most of the original's charm, but some of the omissions were disappointing.

Celeste Piano Collections comes with the main soundtrack of Celeste, arranged for the piano, of course. While many of the pieces in the main game were piano oriented, this rendition adds the various harmonies to the piano as well. I was provided a digital copy of the music, though a physical copy and sheet music are also available. All the included music is immediately recognizable to anyone who played Celeste, which is always a good sign with these arrangements. Generally, each piece contains the main melody and appropriate segments needed to loop back to the melody. The mood of each piece is maintained through various dynamic and tempo changes.

However, not all the movements of the pieces are included, which was disappointing. Although the pieces are still well composed and the key is properly maintained, omitting the many movements was a poor move. Granted, this would make some pieces nearly ten minutes long, but some of my favorite pieces from Celeste are these secondary segments. The music is stellar without considering what was removed, however. The B-Side remixes are also not included, despite being an integral part of the game's soundtrack. I assume this is because the negotiations with the various composers of the B-Side music (as opposed to the single composer of the A-Side) would be too difficult. I would have loved to hear the blues remix of Chapter 5's music on a piano.

While all the music that was chosen to be arranged for Celeste Piano Collections was done very well, I couldn't help but be disappointed by the missing parts. I loved that the mood of each piece was maintained with only one instrument, and the original melodies are still easily recognizable. However, I would recommend the original soundtrack over this, simply because it has more music. It’s 15 dollars for both the A and B side music, available wherever the Piano Collections are. As a standalone product, Celeste Piano Collections is nice, but the source material is certainly better.


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MENU: An Homage to Game Title Themes

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Many video games are known for their great soundtracks and some catch your attention at the menu screen before embarking on your adventure. MENU: An Homage to Game Title Themes is a collection of over fifty theme songs and menu tracks from various games in the past three decades. Most of the songs are true to their origins and others like the Mega Man 2 and Minecraft themes have rap and/or lyrics added to them. While I didn’t mind the “enhancement,” the rest of my family preferred the rap-free songs.

Not surprisingly, this collection has five songs (nearly 10%) from Final Fantasy games. There’s music from Final Fantasy Tactics, IX, XIII, XIII-2, and XV. There are three songs from the Mario franchise including tracks from Mario Kart 64, Paper Mario, and Super Mario 64. Elder Scrolls fans will enjoy the songs from Oblivion and Skyrim.

Belmont Overture from Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse is probably one of the oldest tracks in this collection as this game originated in 1989. Listening to this song brought back pleasant memories from my childhood and my NES. Other familiar songs include Geralt of Rivia from Witcher 3: Wild Hunt, Doki Doki Literature Club, Main Title from Deus Ex, Happiness from Sims 3, and Myst’s theme.

There are so many songs from games I have yet to play including Limbo, Celeste, Cuphead, Horizon Zero Dawn, Stardew Valley, Fire Emblem: Shadow Dragon, Katamari Damacy, and FTL: Faster Than Light. Although I haven’t played Ninja Gaiden II, I really enjoy its menu music now! Mass Effect: Andromeda has good title music too and that series is on my bucket list.

Even if you haven’t played many of the songs in this collection, it’s exceptionally made. The asking price of $16 on Bandcamp is very reasonable. If you order it through there you can get the files in MP3 or in lossless formats like FLAC.

 


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Music Box Classics: Mario

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

I have been enjoying the Mario Bros. series since the Atari and Super Mario Bros. series on the NES. While the Atari 2600 version of the game lacks music, the NES version has quite the memorable soundtrack and it’s great to see it get the lullaby treatment in the Music Box Classics: Mario collection.

This digital album has ten tracks from various games through Mario’s 30+ years in existence. The first track is the Super Mario Bros. overworld music and is the slowest of the bunch. I honestly think it could have benefited from higher beats per minute. The rest of the tracks are a little bit more upbeat. The underwater music from the first Super Mario Bros. game is a welcome addition as well.

The most represented games are Super Mario 64 and Super Mario Galaxy with each having three tracks dedicated to them. You’ll find the following Super Mario 64 songs: Inside the Castle Walls, Bomb-Omb Battlefield, and Dire, Dire Docks. The songs from Super Mario Galaxy Include: Rosalina’s Observatory, Luma, and Gusty Garden. The overworld music from Super Mario Bros. 2 brings back pleasant memories as does Princess Peach’s Theme from Paper Mario: The Thousand-Year Door. I wish that Super Mario Bros. 3 and Super Mario Sunshine had tracks included in the collection, but they’re absent.

Overall, this is a great collection of classic gaming music in music box form. It’s great lullaby music so make sure you’re not too comfortable when listening to it or you may find yourself sleeping before you know it! The total length of this album is a little over thirty-one minutes. It sells for $8.99 on Amazon or for $7 on Bandcamp which provides the tracks in MP3, FLAC and more.


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Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Final Fantasy games are known for their extraordinary music and my husband and I have had the pleasure of seeing multiple live symphonic performances of Nobuo Uematsu’s masterpieces. As a result, we own several compilations of Final Fantasy music and managed to get one of our daughters sick of it. Our other two kids love the music so they turned out alright.

Music Box Classics: Final Fantasy VII focuses on a title with many great songs and the music box treatment works well with these melodies. J-E-N-O-V-A is a little too fast paced to be included, but there are plenty of other great songs in this collection. There are lots of theme songs including the Aerith’s, Tifa’s, and the Chocobo song. Of course, the game’s title song is on this album as well.

I love the battle music in Final Fantasy VII and the Fighting song and One Winged Angel are both included. Another welcome addition is Cosmo Canyon though I have to say that I still prefer the version from the game’s soundtrack.

There are fourteen songs in total and they range from a minute and forty-seven seconds to six minutes and forty-one seconds. All of the tracks are great and I highly recommend this $7 digital album to all Final Fantasy VII fans. The songs are available in MP3 and lossless FLAC formats.

As for my daughter who is sick of Final Fantasy music, I have a plan. After she gets married and has a child, I will give it a stuffed animal or a music box with Aerith’s theme. It’s easier to ask for forgiveness rather than permission, but I’m sure the kid(s) will love it.


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Music Box Classics: Castlevania

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

The iconic Castlevania series made its debut in 1986 and I enjoyed playing the first three on the Nintendo Entertainment System (NES). While I didn’t own the first two games, I have played them at friends’ houses on several occasions. The game I’m the most familiar with is Castlevania III: Dracula’s Curse of which there is one track, Beginning, on this album.

Six songs including the 11-second prologue are from the first game. Simon’s Quest has four songs devoted to it. Symphony of the Night has four songs and while they’re good, I didn’t recognize them since I haven’t played any Castlevania games since the NES era.

As the album title suggests, all fifteen tracks are in a lullaby music box style. Each of the songs are exceptionally done despite being a little slower paced than the originals. The longest song is nearly four minutes and most of the tracks are a couple of minutes in length. Many of them bring back good memories of playing this classic series. The soothing music is very relaxing, but I would recommend exercising some caution as they may be too relaxing to listen to when doing long driving stretches late at night! Having this album shuffled in with the rest of your music library is highly recommended though.

This album is ideal for any Castlevania fan who is familiar with the first few games. The asking price on Bandcamp is a reasonable $7. These songs would be great for conditioning a baby to appreciate awesome game music at a tender age. Additionally, these songs would go great in a crib mobile or perhaps a Build-A-Bear. I wish these albums were around when my kids were babies. I guess I can indoctrinate my future grandkids in the not-so-distant future.

 


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Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV

Thank you Scarlet Moon Records for sending us this digital album to review!

Of all the Final Fantasy games I’ve played, IV and VI have the most memorable music and stories though there are some other runner-ups in the series as well. Nobuo Uematsu is a talented composer and my husband and I have had the privilege of seeing him in person and conducting a live orchestra performing many of his masterpieces. We have also seen live performances of string quartets playing his works too. I’ll also confess to owning every CD from the Black Mages and Earthbound Papas. I also have the overclocked remixes from Final Fantasy IV and Final Fantasy VI (hands down better than IV).

Upon hearing about the Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV album, I was hoping for a chance to check it out and I’m glad that we were able to do so. William Carlos Reyes from The OneUps does an exceptional job playing the classical guitar and does these songs proud with his performance. I’ve only been playing the guitar for a couple of years and it will be a while before I can consider myself worthy of attempting any of these songs.

In total, there are twelve tracks and my favorites from Final Fantasy IV made the cut. The Theme of Love and iconic Fight Song are both done beautifully. Of course, Rydia’s song and the main theme are present too. If you enjoy the town music, you’ll be happy to know that it’s on this album as well. The final track is an original piece titled The Crystals which is inspired by Final Fantasy IV.

This album sells for $8.99 on Amazon and $10 on Bandcamp and it’s worth picking up if you enjoy Final Fantasy IV and its music. They’re planning on making a Guitar Collections Final Fantasy series and I’m definitely looking forward to future releases.

 


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String Player Gamer: Rebirth

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

Ever since String Player Gamer’s rendition of Undertale’s music, I’ve been a fan of his work. The Rebirth album has a wide variety of songs, instruments, and source material. Not all of the songs are based off of video games either. Light of the Seven from Game of Thrones makes an appearance. There are some songs from the movies Wonder Woman and Star Wars: A New Hope too. Other than those few songs, the rest of the tracks are from classic video games from the past couple of decades.

In total, there are thirty-two tracks and they are all exceptionally done. Most of them are instrumental though there are some with vocals like Pokémon’s Magikarp Song and the Song of Mana from Legend of Mana. There’s even an acapella version of Star War’s throne room song. Along with the instrument playing, the vocals are fantastic.

There’s a lot of Nintendo representation with songs from Kirby's Dream Land, Super Mario Odyssey, Super Mario Land, Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild and Legend of Zelda: Spirit Tracks. There are quite a few Pokémon songs including battle and town music. Chrono Cross has a couple of songs in this album. Retro gamers will enjoy tracks from Mega Man 3, Street Fighter II, Sonic the Hedgehog, and the Tetris Reggae. Some other songs come from games like Animal Crossing, Assassin’s Creed II, and Professor Layton and the Curious Village. I was happy to see some Final Fantasy (XV) representation on this album too.

In the end, this album has something for every gamer and fans of superhero and Star Wars movies. The price is a reasonable $12.99 and you can listen to it before buying it on Bandcamp and other digital resellers. While it is available digitally on Amazon, it’s a little more expensive there.


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Glory To Metal (A Symphonic Metal Tribute to NieR: Automata)

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

After hearing Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition of several popular Undertale songs, I became a fan and bought the tracks. Ferdk and I both enjoyed the music and gameplay from the sleeper-hit, NieR: Automata.

Glory to Metal features four enhanced tracks from the game that are a little over three minutes each. The $4 bundle includes the following songs:

Bipolar Nightmare
Alien Manifestation
Forest Kingdom
Grandma (Destruction)

Two of the tracks are battle oriented while the other two focus on the game’s ambient music. Each of the songs harness Ferdk’s bombastic symphonic metal music style. In Bipolar Nightmare you’ll hear pounding drums, guitar, bells, and an orchestra backing it up. It’s been a while since I played this game but I’ll take an educated guess that this is one of the fighting tracks. Alien Manifestation has the guitars taking the lead with the orchestra and drums backing them up. The organ work is great as well. I am assuming this is one of the background music pieces.

Forest Kingdom features a xylophone and is probably the tamest track on the album. The tempo picks up halfway through the song and is a joy to hear in its entirety. I’m quite certain that this is one of the ambient songs in the game. The orchestra starts off Grandma (Destruction) and the guitar quickly steps in and dominates this battle music track.

All of tracks are wonderful and I can’t pick a favorite. As expected, the guitar work is exceptional and prominently featured in each of the tracks. My only complaint with this album is that it’s over too quickly! I look forward to more game inspired renditions from Ferdk.

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Austin Stone Worship – Everflow

Thank you Austin Stone Worship for sending us this digital album to review!

The Austin Stone ministry is located in Austin, Texas and they consist of talented worship leaders, musicians, songwriters, and artists. Their goal is to proclaim the gospel of Christ throughout the world and to challenge believers to live a life fully devoted to Jesus. Everflow is their seventh album, and after hearing how great the production quality is and how the gospel message is clearly in it, I’m going to have to backtrack and check out their previous recordings.

Everflow consists of thirteen tracks, which range from calming instrumental songs to electronic dance music. My favorite song is titled The Center of It All and its electronic dance music style reminds me of music from a Christian group called Capital Kings. There’s a wide variety of music styles represented in the album. Many of the songs have piano, synthesizer, and electric guitar in them. The vocal talent is exceptional and I enjoyed listening to the male and female lead singers.

The theme of this CD is based off of 1 Peter and points to the supremacy of Jesus in all things. With song titles like Jesus Lifted High, You Can’t Be Praised Enough, and Jesus Is Better, they are on the right track. The lyrics are certainly praising God and lifting his name on high. The instrumental tracks are pleasant to listen to as well, but they’re not as moving and the ones with words.

This CD is availably digitally and in physical form on Amazon and at many popular brick and mortar retailers like Walmart and Target. I highly recommend checking out Austin Stone Worship’s website for all of their music and resources available to believers, worship leaders, and musicians. I look forward to more God honoring music from them!



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Jonathan Cain - Unsung Noel

Thank you Hoganson Media for sending us a digital album to review!

Jonathan Cain was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in April of 2017. Many may know him as Journey’s keyboardist and co-author of Don’t Stop Believin’. A quick look at his Twitter feed will show that he’s a Christian and listening to his latest Christmas album, Unsung Noel, truly emphasizes the reason for the season. The first song, The Heart of Christmas, emphasizes that Jesus is the reason for the season.

There are fourteen songs and they are all beautifully performed and produced. A couple that I recognized right off the bat are Angels We Have Heard on High, Oh Holy Night, and Do You Hear What I Hear. The other eleven tracks were all new to me. Even though I’m not Catholic anymore, I enjoyed Hail Mary. That song and entire CD proclaim Jesus Christ as the king, savior, and true meaning behind Christmas.

All of the songs are calming and have great singing and keyboard playing. The lyrics throughout the CD are inspiring, praise Jesus, and tell of his miraculous birth. The song Joseph’s Pride tells Joseph’s doubts and role as Jesus’ earthly father.

If you’re looking for praise filled Christmas music, look no further than Jonathan Cain’s Unsung Noel Christmas album. Digitally it sells for $8.99 and the audio CD is only a dollar more. I love playing Christmas music throughout the month of December though I have made an exception for this album. It’s great to listen to Christ-centered music instead of ones focusing on made up figures. This one is definitely staying in my Christmas music collection!

 


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Undertale: Strings of Determination

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this digital album to review!

I reviewed Undertale shortly after its 2015 release date and this game continues to stay popular, with many kids still talking about and playing it. I can see why since it’s a fun game. While I did beat the game once, I haven’t had the time (or determination) to revisit the other endings. What impressed me most about Undertale was the wonderful soundtrack composed by the very same game developer, Toby Fox. Although the game was gifted to me, I purchased the soundtrack and Ferdk’s symphonic metal rendition as well. As great as those are, I truly feel that String Player Gamer’s digital album, Undertale: Strings of Determination, is the definitive soundtrack to buy if you have to choose one. Of course, I recommend picking up all three!

The violin and guitar work is top notch and the production quality is as good as it gets. The songs don't stray too much from the original soundtrack, but the instrument work really does stand out. In total, there are forty-six songs and they are all well done. All of the tracks are arranged by Diwa de Leon and the song ‘Temmie Village’ has a guest acapella singer, Tera Catallo aka TeraCMusic on YouTube. It’s hard to believe that this album was made by a couple of people!

The asking price is a very reasonable $14 and this album can be listened to and purchased on BandCamp, Spotify, and on iTunes. Before this complete album was released, String Player Gamer released four Undertale volumes so if you only want a few of the songs, that’s a cheaper option. Each of the volumes cost $6 so getting the complete set is still a better deal. I now consider myself a fan of String Player Gamer’s work and will continue to follow and look forward to his future masterpieces.

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The Porter’s Gate Volume 1: Work Songs


Thank you Porter’s Gate Worship Project for sending us this digital album to review!

I grew up Roman Catholic and then attended a Baptist church in my teenage years. Both of those churches had traditional hymns with only an organ or piano and vocals. I appreciate a good hymn, but I also love contemporary worship with a wide variety of instruments or even a symphonic band! Seeing a need for worship revival, The Porter’s Gate started a creative movement to compose some new worship songs with the help of first-rate singers, songwriters, and musicians.

The theme for this collaborative effort is vocation and they hope to use music as an opportunity to extend hospitality and build bridges with our neighbors. I think they achieved this goal of creating music that is beautiful, truth-filled, and inspiring in this thirteen-track album.


There’s a lot of variety in each of the songs with some of them having a male lead singer while others feature a female lead singer. Urban Doxology was part of the collaboration project too. The voices are all great and I didn’t hear any sour notes. Some of the songs feature just a piano while others have an entire symphony. There are some somber songs and others are energetic.

Like many worship songs, I have to hear the songs a couple of times to have them resonate with me. Listening to this album multiple times has been a pleasant and uplifting experience. The lyrics are God honoring and the music is catchy. I caught myself tapping my foot while listening.

The debut album is due to release on October 6th, 2017 and I highly recommend checking it out through your favorite music provider. I look forward to more inspiring music from Porter’s Gate Worship Project!

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Retrogression: Vol.1

The Nintendo Entertainment System (NES) was truly innovative on many levels upon its launch. So many great games were available on that console and given the success of the recent NES Classic, gamers still love them. Besides the fun gameplay, many of the most popular games had stellar soundtracks to go with them. Stemage has done something interesting in their recently released digital album, Retrogression: Vol.1.

In Retrogression: Vol.1, Stemage plays four popular theme songs backwards and then reverses them (individually) so you can recognize them again. To stay true to the NES’ limitations they used drums, two guitars, and one bass. The songs performed backwards are really well done and are fun listening to, even if I’ve only played 3/4 games being represented.

The four games paid homage to include Ghosts N’ Goblins, Punch-Out!!, Super Mario Brothers, and Tetris. Since the album is available on Bandcamp, you can listen to each track individually and pay what you want for it. The songs are available to download in MP3 or FLAC format. Since you can set your own price, I won’t complain about the length of the album as it can be heard in its entirety in less than fifteen minutes. While the reversed/forward songs are neat, I would have loved to hear the jazzed up songs played in their proper direction. Other than those minor nitpicks, I recommend picking up this album if these NES games hold a special place in your heart.

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Ozwald Bozwald - Transformed

Thank you SMT Entertainment for sending us a digital copy of this CD!

Ozwald Bozwald is a Harlem, New York City based recording artist, producer, and DJ.  He's been in the music industry for nearly fifteen years and most of his music was hip-hop and rap based.  In his new album, Transformed, he changes his music style to dance; and it's awesome!  It's not just his music style that has changed, but his whole life has been transformed from when he started making music.  

Ozwald is a full-fledged vegan, Christian, and a husband though he never planned on being any of those.  While the songs are pretty neutral without any scripture or praising of Jesus, Ozwald isn't shy about his faith on his social media sites.  In fact, his single 'Only One' is about being monogamous and the singer offers to break the law if needed for his love interest.  While that song isn't exactly teaching good values, it's not promoting sleeping around like many popular dance songs these days.

There are four tracks on this EP and they can be listened to freely on Sound Cloud.  If you like the music, you can buy it digitally on iTunes for $3.99.      His latest single 'Only One' is available on Amazon, but the rest of the album is not there yet.  Some of his older rap music is though. I'm definitely a fan of his newer music versus his hip-hop roots.

My favorite song on Transformed is Radar; it's one of the two songs that has lyrics and is performed by Kevin Singleton.  The title song only has the word Transformed spoken a couple of times and Heaven is completely instrumental.  The whole CD is solid and I recommend it for any dance music fan.  If you're looking for music praising God, you'll want to look elsewhere, but if you want to dance to some "clean" music, Transformed will fit the bill nicely.

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Christ Centered Gamer looks at video games from two view points. We analyze games on a secular level which will break down a game based on its graphics, sound, stability and overall gaming experience. If you’re concerned about the family friendliness of a game, we have a separate moral score which looks at violence, language, sexual content, occult references and other ethical issues.

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