Christ Centered Gamer Blog

This blog contains non-gaming related reviews and random ramblings

Funk Fiction and GameChops – Sonic & Chill

Thank you GameChops for the digital album for us to review!

The Sonic the Hedgehog series has been incredibly influential to the gaming community with it’s gameplay, art, and characters, but I believe that it has arguably excelled the most with its music and sound design. It has done this to the point that several music artists have taken inspiration from and made covers of the soundtracks of various installments in the series. A wonderful and quite pleasant example of this is the Sonic & Chill album by Funk Fiction and GameChops, as it adds a very unique and fun vibe to a few songs from Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic the Hedgehog 2, Sonic the Hedgehog 3, Sonic Adventure, Sonic R, and Sonic Mania. As the composers names may suggest, this album could be described as funk or synth jazz. I personally really like it, since that sort of music is right up my alley.

I previously mentioned that most of the album is funky and jazzy, but have noticed that a few songs contain some aspects of lo-fi and/or bossa nova. The cover of Welcome to the Station from Sonic Adventure is one of my favorites, as it takes on a bossa nova vibe and is quite pleasant to listen to. Chemical Plant Zone is another great one I enjoyed, and would argue that it’s one of the funkiest tracks on the album due to its dissonant harmonies and strong percussion. All of the arrangements are great in their own way, but these two stood out to me personally.

The album is comprised of various synths as well as some electric guitar used for both lead and rhythm. A lot of the MIDI instruments used are there to mimic the source material, while others, such as the synth saxophone, are used to spice it up a bit. Even if some of them are clearly fake, it doesn’t take away from the musical value of the pieces. They’re all mixed really well, and have various EQ effects put on them as well to make them truly beautiful to listen to.

Sonic & Chill is definitely something I highly recommend, as I could not help but jam the first time I heard it. It has a total of 14 tracks, which adds up to around 43 minutes of jams. The full album can be purchased on Bandcamp for $10 or streamed on most services.

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Return to the Wild

Thank you Scarlett Moon Promotions for sending us this album to review!

I am a long-time fan of The Legend of Zelda, since the NES gold cartridge days, and I did enjoy (and review!) The Breath of the Wild. I also enjoy some hard rock; one of my favorite genres of music is progressive and instrumental rock, like Joe Satriani, Steve Vai, Dream Theater, and Yes. So, when I was offered the chance to review this album, I instantly jumped at the chance!

In 2017, Ro Panuganti released one of his first game-related albums on Bandcamp, called "The Wild". While I can only guess how popular it was, it did catch the attention of the indie label Materia Collective. Now, with the release of Tears of the Kingdom, he released this spiritual sequel, "Return to the Wild".

Compared to the five tracks on the original 'The Wild' EP, this is a full CD-sized release, with nearly fifty minutes of music. Five of the tracks are remixes of the originals, while the nine others are all new, making this album fourteen tracks. All tracks are hard/progressive rock, and prominently feature excellent guitar playing along with percussion and other accompaniments. Below is a track list with my thoughts as I listened to each one:

Awaken - Nice piano intro with electric guitar and synthesizer melody, heavy drum beats, short start to the album, and sets the tone

Guardian - Strong Guardian theme via guitar plucking, battle notes have strong emphasis, then fades to background as heavier riffs come forward; melodies come and go, always lots of tension and shifting time signatures keeping the listener on edge; some saxophone later; mellow, acoustic ending

Riding Day - Piano to start, with signature tune for the outdoors that strongly points back to the game; calming with violins in the background and occasional guitar riffs; short

Hinox - Higher energy track, with heavy percussion and a strong guitar lead with synthesizers; very tense as battle music should be; also has alternating time signatures; some wood flute mid song before returning to heavy riffs; occasional jungle-like sounds, ends with harmonica and sounds of footprints

Kass - Heavy tones with a clear, strong melody with mostly guitar

Gerudo Town - Jam heavy, with a strong lead melody; lots of guitar and percussion; longer

Tarrey Town - More mellow, starts with piano and ocarina; jazzy presentation with calming lead guitar with ocarina given a prominent place in the melody; some country-ish tunes near the end

Zora - Lower distortion electric guitar with harmonics and prominent piano; relatively calm with a strong melody; mellow and enjoyable song overall with a strong lead guitar presence over piano

Korok Forest - Strong bass lines with a prominent violin, and acoustic guitar; very different presentation than many of the other tracks; very enjoyable for a jazz lover like me; lots of echo effects

Shrine - One of the most recognizable songs on the whole album for players of the game; starts acapella with stereo effects simulating the starting shrine jingle, and moves to low distortion electric guitar; moves into a harder sound, with more guitar distortion

Molduga - Starts with strong percussion, and jams into one of the heaviest songs in the album with strong rhythms and a heavy jam, with a melody driven by less distorted guitars; several time signature changes; this one is very metal

Rito - Begins with distortion and piano, recalling the theme of the area, and much more mellow than the previous song; nice low-distortion guitar with a strong melody; ends with a loud, hawk-like sound

Hyrule Castle - Starts with a bold announcer pronouncing doom; goes into a strong distorted guitar melody with heavy percussion, with some piano backing; later in the song, some great bass lines and harder riffs with the classic Zelda themes

Sheikah Tower - Begins with some echoing piano and guitar; a very atmospheric, mellow ending to the album

I feel like this album is best played in order and enjoyed as an album, as several of the song transitions are clearly meant to be from one to the next. I would say this does mean that it's a bit less ideal in a shuffle format, though you can certainly enjoy the tracks in that way, even if a few end a bit oddly.

Return to the Wild is a jam-packed album that I highly recommend to fans of Zelda music who also enjoy harder rock. I really enjoyed this album a lot; it is one of the best indie game-themed albums I've heard in a while.

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Galactic Empire Special Edition

Thank you Pure Noise Records for sending us this digital album to review!

As a gamer I appreciate Final Fantasy soundtracks and I love the metal remakes that The Black Mages/Earthbound Papas gave them. Galactic Empire Special Edition does a metal makeover on Star Wars music. I love how it begins with the 20th Century Fox Fanfare theme that’s in the beginning of many movies that are near and dear to our hearts.

The next song is the main Star Wars theme mixed with Revenge of the Sith. It’s the longest track at seven and a half minutes and makes you want to play air guitar along with it. The Imperial Suite isn’t as familiar to me, but still entertains for two and a half minutes. Dark Side Assault gives me boss music vibes, and as my kids would say, it slaps.

Sadly, I have not seen The Mandalorian, but those that have may recognize the fifth track. I can’t vouch for its accuracy, but it sounds pretty good and makes me regret not seeing it yet even more. Obi Wan Kenobi has his own metalized music compilation too. Since this didn't sound familiar to me, I'm assuming it's based off of the TV series.

Star Wars: The Bad Batch is another show that I haven’t seen. I’m not familiar with its theme, but the metal rendition is good. It should come as no surprise that I haven’t seen The Book of Boba Fett either, but the theme song rocks and is one of my favorites on this album. I like the background "Hey!" vocals. The Battle of Hoth is from The Empire Strikes Back and sounds good with the metal treatment. The final song, Victory Celebration, is a good ending song and is more cheerful than the previous track. I'm not sure the origins of this song, but its decent.

Galactic Empire Special Edition is available on BandCamp for $7, or you can purchase tracks individually for $1 apiece. The audio tracks are available in many formats, including MP3, FLAC, and more. I was sent WAV files and I converted them to FLAC to save space and also to MP3 so my 2012 car stereo can play it. They all sound great! A few of the tracks are available to listen to ahead of time. If you're like me and have only watched the movies, many of these songs may be over your head. Just because they're not recognizable doesn't reduce their quality in any way. I just think that people who watched the TV shows may enjoy this album more. Fans of heavy metal and Star Wars should check this album out!

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Mario Mixtape

 

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

Mario Mixtape by Mustin Enterprises is a father and son collaboration that only took 88 days to make. They reached their goal of releasing this album before The Super Mario Bros Movie. This is my first time hearing Mustin’s work, and I must say that I’m impressed. Though I’ve only played the NES and SNES Mario games, I’ve heard my husband and son play the others, so I’m familiar with the rest.

In total, there are twelve tracks that’ll keep you entertained for close to half an hour. Here’s a breakdown of the tracks:

New Super Mario Bros. - Ground BGM 02:17
Super Mario Sunshine - Delfino Plaza 02:22
Super Mario Galaxy - Attack of the Airships 02:43
Super Mario World - Game Over 02:18
Super Smash Bros. Melee - All-Star Rest Area 02:29
Super Mario Bros. - Underground BGM 02:32
Super Mario 64 - Piranha Plant's Lullaby 02:27
Dr. Mario - Dire, Dire Docs 01:19
Super Smash Bros. Melee - Menu 01:56
Super Mario Galaxy - To the Gate 02:58
Super Mario Bros. 3 - Athletic Theme 02:05
Super Mario 64 - Dire, Dire Docks 02:51

As you can see, there’s a good representation of the various Mario games here. Even though the Attack of the Airships is from Super Mario Galaxy, I picked up on the Super Mario Bros. 3 Airship song similarities. That’s not the only mashup. I enjoyed the Dr. Mario and Dire, Dire Docs mix too.

Most of the songs like All Star Arena, Piranha Plant’s Lullaby, and Underground BGM are smooth and easy listening while To the Gate and the Super Mario Bros. 3 Athletic Theme have a more electronic feel to them. Delfino Plaza has an upbeat ska vibe.

Overall, I enjoyed the whole album and don’t have any particular favorites or disliked songs. If you enjoy relaxing Mario-themed music, Mario Mixtape is worth checking out. You can give it a listen on BandCamp and buy the digital album's FLAC or MP3 files for $9.99. The tracks can be purchased individually for $.99 apiece.  The physical version of the CD will be available on April 20th.  I look forward to more father and son collaborations!

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Piano Diaries: Deltarune Chapter 1

 

Thank you Scarlet Moon for sending us this album!

Deltarune, in my opinion, has one of the best soundtracks of the indie game genre, and due to this, people love making their own versions of the songs in it. A wonderful example of this being done is an album called Piano Diaries: Deltarune Chapter 1 by David Russell and Laura Platt. It contains 40 pieces that show the arrangers’ views on what they would do to the soundtrack in a more classical style. All of the songs are played on a piano without any percussion, but sometimes effects are added and may change the instrument in some way.

Each song is unique and has its own separate mood, while staying fairly faithful to the original material. One of my favorites is their version of Rude Buster, as it keeps the chaotic vibe but interprets the song in a way that I really like in terms of the key, the way it completely changes the mood in some parts, and the great control of the volume. Another thing that I believe is really great is that even though a lot of the songs in the original Deltarune soundtrack rely heavily on percussion, the renditions in this album make up for that really well by messing with the tempo or volume of the already amazing piano playing. The arrangers also made something beautiful about the only song in the soundtrack with lyrics, Don’t Forget, by turning it into a slow, flowing piece that’s pretty much guaranteed to calm your mind.

Although this album is great and I think the artists behind it did a very good job, there are a few songs that I feel are unnecessary due to how short they are or how they aren’t worth putting in so much work to transcribe. Some examples of this are their covers of Weird Birds, I’m Very Bad, Fanfare, and a few others.

Other than some small things, Piano Diaries: Deltarune Chapter 1 is completely worth listening to, especially if you enjoyed Deltarune’s soundtrack or if you like solo piano pieces. There are songs in here for any mood, and consist of various genres played in various styles which I think you’ll enjoy.

Piano Diaries: Deltarune Chapter 1 is Available on Amazon for $8.99
(Amazon Affiliate link)

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Encuentro De Sangre – A Metal Tribute to Castlevania

 

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

The genre Metroidvania is combination of Metroid and Castlevania which revolutionized platformer games.  Growing up, I played more Castlevania games than Metroid and most of my time in the series was spent in Castlevania III.  Upon hearing about a metal tribute album featuring songs from the first three Catlevania games, my interest was piqued.  I was sold on checking out the album upon funding out that Ferdk was one of the performers.  I really enjoyed his rendition of NieR: Automata and Undertale songs.  

Along with Ferdk, other collaborators (that I now admire) include Pokérus Project. ThePlasmas, and Thennecan.  Each group/artist contributes three songs to this tribute album.  All of the songs are exceptionally done and there are no weak links here. Each game is equally represented with four songs apiece.

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Milk & Honey

Thank you Crowder Music for sending us a digital album to review!

I first heard of David Crowder Band when they played for the youth group (I was a leader) at Harvest Bible Chapel. This was around the time of their Can You Hear Us album which I highly recommend if you haven’t listened to it yet. Their music ranged from alternative rock to bluegrass and everything in between. I was heartbroken when the band broke up, but am happy to hear that the members are still making music. Since the breakup, I have bought albums from the previous band members, The Digital Age, along with David Crowder’s records that go by Crowder Music.

Crowder Music’s latest album Milk & Honey is pure gold as there are no bad tracks in my opinion. The first song, “Good God Almighty”, has a title that I’m so used to hearing as a blaspheme but it’s wonderful to hear it in a good context. This is a very uplifting and powerful hymn. “In the House” has a pop feel to it, but it’s got a great message about God’s love and peace that He offers. “He Is” has a nice blend of piano and a tiny bit of country. The title song “Milk & Honey” has bluegrass roots and is quite catchy.

Higher Power is something I would expect to hear at a Christian dance club. Sweet Jesus takes things in a whole different direction with a smooth pop vibe that reminds me of something Usher would sing. God Really Loves Us is a beautiful piano ballad praising God’s love for us. Who’s Gonna Stop The King is a pop hymn that gives God the glory He deserves. Better Than Sunshine has a melody that reminds me of something that I would hear on a paradise island. Glory, Glory (God Is Able) has a 1920’s sound to it that’s bound to get your foot stomping to the beat. Hallelujah For Every Broken Heart sings about seeking God when all else is lost. This song mostly consists of piano and clapping. The final track, The Anchor is another piano-driven tune that sings about God being our hope in tough times.

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Fallen Hero

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

It’s no secret that I love the music from Undertale and have reviewed many different renditions of the songs from this game. If you enjoyed Ferdk’s interpretations of Battle Against a True Hero, Hopes and Dreams, and Spider Dance, you’ll want to hear Ro Panuganti’s versions in this album. I was impressed with Ro Panuganti’s Pokemon album, Metal Trainer, and looked forward to his progressive metal take on Undertale. While it doesn’t dethrone String Player Gamer’s version as my favorite, it’s still a solid album.

Fallen Hero has 24 tracks with the guitar being the most dominant instrument used. You’ll still hear drums, keyboard, violin, and other percussion instruments too. All of the songs were instantly recognizable and brought back fond memories of playing this game.

Here’s a full track list:

1. Once Upon a Time 02:25

2. Fallen Down 01:12

3. Ruins 03:25

4. Enemy Approaching 02:52

5. Ghost Fight 02:10

6. Home 03:26

7. Heartache 04:58

8. Snowy 03:38

9. Bonetrousle 02:49

10. Waterfall 03:31

11. Run! 03:01

12. Spear of Justice 03:39

13. Battle Against a True Hero 05:30

14. Metal Crusher 02:15

15. Another Medium 06:00

16. Spider Dance 02:33

17. Oh! One True Love 01:35

18. Dogsong 02:43

19. Death by Glamour 05:11

20. Bergentrückung 01:16

21. ASGORE 04:23

22. Your Best Nightmare 06:11

23. Hopes and Dreams 06:00

24. MEGALOVANIA 04:56

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13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Remix & Arrange Album -The Branched-

Thank you Scarlet Moon Productions for providing a digital album to review!

I find it very interesting that the game 13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim was nearly considered by publisher Atlus to be written down as a loss. When the game was originally released in Japan back in 2019, it didn’t even sell well in the beginning. It was only by the generous word of mouth by well-regarded game developers Masahiro Sakurai (Super Smash Bros. series) and Yoko Taro (NieR: Automata) that sales started to pick up—and eventually considered a sales success by Atlus despite its long and troubled development time. I previously reviewed said game here where I more or less gush about it for 2000+ words. If you’re a fan of sci-fi or adventure games and have a PS4/PS5, I highly recommend checking it out.

The soundtrack of 13 Sentinels is praised all around by the reviewers and players who experienced it. Basiscape Records, who previously worked on the game’s soundtrack took another crack at it with this arranged and remixed album, officially titled “13 Sentinels: Aegis Rim Remix & Arrange Album -The Branched-”. Basiscape was founded by world-renowned video game composer Hitoshi Sakimoto (best known for his work on the Final Fantasy Tactics series). This album, spearheaded by Yoshimi Kudo takes twelve pieces from the Remembrance (adventure) segments and Destruction (battle) segments while introducing two completely new tracks, making a total of fourteen. The first new track, titled -[PROTEASE]- is in the style of the battle segments. The other new track, Stellar Memories is completely original, with vocals sung by one of the characters, Miyuki Inaba. 

The other twelve tracks are an alternative take, almost as if the story went along a different path. Some pieces tend to either double down on the intensity of the overall feeling, incorporating genres or inspiration from techno, dubstep, and digital instruments. Other pieces even slow down the pace, taking a more muted and mellow approach. My favorite track out of the remixed album is Halcyon Days -Branched- as it takes a soothing and relaxing theme that I already enjoyed a lot and energizes it, giving a bouncy and peppy feeling to it. It almost sounds like it could be the music to the first level of a platformer. 

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8 Music Genres That Everyone Should Listen To

Every person is unique. They have unique tastes, unique opinions as well as unique lifestyles. No two people are identical in nature. But there is one thing that unites everyone. And that is Music. Everyone likes to listen to music.

Well, almost everyone. There can be exceptions of course. They, sure, may not like listening to one genre. Their preference for genres may vary widely. But music is something everybody enjoys. There are some specific genres in music that is a must for everyone to listen to.

So, here is the list and description of 10 music genres that everyone should listen to at least once in their lifetime.

    1. Pop Music:

Pop Music is one of the music genres that is very popular and produces most of the hit songs. Pop Music has a good rhythm and a nice melody. Pop music theory is a formula that is there in most of the songs. Pop music culture started growing in the mid-1950s in the United States and the United Kingdom. Sebastian, a content writer who wrote men's eyebrow trimmer says, “I grew up listening to pop music and it always heals me. Pop is my all-time favourite genre.”

    2. Jazz Music:

It mainly started in the communities of Africa America. Almost all the genres of music can get overlapped by jazz. There is no particular set of instruments for jazz music. Almost any instrument can be used; the only condition is that the instrument must be such that it allows improvisation. Instruments like Guitar, trombone, trumpet, keyboard, drum, and saxophone are used mostly. New York City is considered as the jazz capital. Other places famous for jazz are Chicago, Kansas city. Some famous jazz musicians are Miles Davis, Stan Getz, and Kenny Burrel etc

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Conspiravision: Deus Ex Remixed

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

Deus Ex was originally released in 2000 and this album was released to coincide with its 20th anniversary. While Deus Ex doesn’t look great by today’s standards, it was a revolutionary first-person shooter (FPS) for its time. The story is engaging and the ability to upgrade your augmented body adds strategy to the gameplay. While violence is always an option, you can opt to simply knock out most of the foes if desired.

The electronica background music for this title is phenomenal. I remember extracting the Unreal music files and burning it to multiple CDs since I really enjoyed the music from this game. Not all of my favorite tunes made it onto Conspiravision: Deus Ex Remixed, but most of them are there.

This album consists of seventeen tracks ranging from three to four minutes apiece and will keep your ears happy for over an hour. Alexander Brandon did a fine job staying true to the original songs while giving them all a nice tune-up.

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One Beat Angel FFVII

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

My husband and I are fans of the Final Fantasy games and music. We have attended multiple live orchestral performances and own several Distant World and Black Mages/Earthbound Papas CDs. When I played and beat Final Fantasy VII on PC, I swapped out many of the original game songs to the Black Mages versions. By doing so, I made a great game even better! Before going any further, I must admit that I have not played the remake. With many gamers playing the remake and enjoying its music, it only makes sense to release an enhanced version of the soundtrack. Roborob delivers a nice selection of songs from this epic game in One Beat Angel FFVII.

I enjoyed and reviewed Roborob’s Kingdom Hearts remake album, Kingdom Heartbeats. I recognized many of the tracks but it’s been a while since I played a Kingdom Hearts game so I’m not as familiar with the music from that series. Since I’m a fan of Roborob and Final Fantasy VII, I jumped at the change to review One Beat Angel. For the most part, I have no regrets. While this is an enjoyable 11-track album, I prefer the original and Black Mages versions over this.

Just like the Final Fantasy games, this album opens up with a spruced-up version of the prelude song which is quite fitting. The second track Fight On! Takes the iconic battle song to a new level. If you’ve won a battle in a Final Fantasy game, you’ll recognize the Victory Fanfare song. The Mako Reactor song is instantly recognizable even with the dubstep additions. Who Are You is also given an electronic dance music facelift in this album.

With the album called One Beat Angel, it should come as no surprise that One-Winged Angel is overhauled as well. Aerith’s theme is probably my least favorite song on this albumn since it’s not recognizable until the very end. On the flipside, the peppy Chocobo Theme doesn’t stray too far from the original score. On That Day Five Years Ago brings the seriousness back with some nice beats. Roborob’s rendition of Cosmo Canyon is decent, but I have to give the nod to Pandoh’s dubstep version. The finale song, JENOVA does not disappoint and brings this entertaining album to a close.

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Field of Hopes and Strings

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

Deltarune Chapter 1 is a free spiritual successor to Undertale. Toby Fox has worked his magic again by producing a fun game with good humor and an excellent soundtrack. In turn, String Player Gamer did an awesome job sprucing up the soundtrack in a fourteen-song collection called Field of Hopes and Strings which is a play on Deltarune’s theme song, Field of Hopes and Dreams. Both Fields of Hopes and Strings and the original soundtrack are available on BandCamp.com for $7 each.

Fields of Hopes and Strings is about forty minutes in length and has a nice sampling of songs from the OST which contains forty tracks. Many of the omitted songs are less than thirty seconds long. The symphonic metal styling of the chosen songs is superb and fans of Toby Fox and Deltarune should give this album a listen.

Here’s a breakdown of the track list:

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Metal Trainer

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

The Pokémon franchise has been around since 1996 and has been producing best-selling games almost yearly since then. I started with the first generation of Red, Blue, and Yellow games. Ro Panuganti, who specializes in video game covers, takes tunes from the Red and Blue games and puts a heavy metal spin on them. The end result is a nine-track digital album that provides over twenty-five minutes of heart pumping music to catch Pokémon to!

It’s been years since I’ve played Pokémon Red/Blue, but I still recognized the first tune, Pokémon Master, right off the bat. It’s the theme song, electrified! The second track named Viridian is the Viridian City music overhauled. The guitar playing is fantastic! The third track, Wild Encounter, has some nice sound effects and really spruces up the wild Pokémon battle music. Pokémon Hospital begins with a lot of background noises including chatter and ER machinery before revealing a soothing remake of the Pokémon Center music. The Mt. Moon track is true to the source material and keeps the sense of danger and the thrill of exploration. The sixth track, Cerulean, takes the upbeat city music and jazzes it up a bit. I wonder how many people would recognize it if it was set as hold music?

The seventh track, Lavender, is the longest track at nearly five and a half minutes long. I must say I like this version much better than the original game’s town music. The mysterious mansion music is the eighth track dubbed Mansion. Again, this rendition improves upon the original in my opinion. The final track, Gym Battle, is a souped up version of the iconic Gym Battle music.

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The Unbreakable Unity

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

Hiroki Kikuta is a famous composer known for his work in Secret of Mana. The Unbreakable Unity is a one-track album with a thirty-nine minute song that’s heavily influenced by Secret of Mana. The song opens with a wind flute-like instrument and a sense of mystery. Other instruments like a xylophone, oboe, and harp chime in along with other synthesized instruments.

My part-time job is seventeen miles away and with the morning traffic, it can take between thirty-five to forty-five minutes to arrive at work. The Unbreakable Unity is the perfect commuting song as it’s very relaxing and eases road rage a bit. If my commute exceeds forty minutes, this song loops smoothly.

The upbeat sections make for great overworld or traveling soundtracks. Perfect for driving past acres and acres of farmland. Some parts of the song are more mysterious as if you’re exploring some ancient ruins or an abandoned temple filled with hostile monsters or ferocious wildlife. This section makes driving though construction zones with lane closures and detours more interesting.

Many of the themes repeat throughout the song, but they are switched up to keep things interesting. I often envision myself exploring an eerie forest or open fields with frequent stops to battle bad guys. If you enjoyed Secret of Mana and its music, you’ll definitely appreciate this album. Fans of SNES-style game music should give it a listen too.

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Kingdom Heartbeats

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

Kingdom Heartbeats features ten electronically remixed tracks from the popular Kingdom Hearts franchise. This album has been produced by Roborob and features some excellent vocals in some of the tracks.

The album begins with a nearly two minute shorter version of the intro song: Simple and Clean. Though the original tracks fall under the electronic dance music category, these remixes kick it up a notch. Tension Rising from Kingdom Hearts II is the second song and the remix amplifies it but stays true to the original battle music. The 13th Struggle from Kingdom Hearts 2 has also been tweaked for this album and it too sounds true to form and is nicely done.

Most of the tracks are from Kingdom Hearts 2 and Sora’s Theme has not been neglected. You’ll find a longer and tweaked version on this album. I have no idea what the Japanese singers are saying in the song Passion, but it sounds great. The menu music Dearly Beloved is so beautiful and should have been left alone. Although the remix is good, I still prefer the original.

Kingdom Hearts 3 gets some representation with Face My Fears. After that opening song, the first game is re-visited with some enhanced theme music from Traverse Town. Kingdom Hearts 2 takes the spotlight again with the upbeat battle music, Sinister Sundown. The album concludes with a much faster and dubstep version of one of my favorite tracks, This Is Halloween. Although interesting, I still prefer the original version.

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Between Earth and Sky (Music from "Chrono Trigger")

Between Earth and Sky (Music from "Chrono Trigger")
By Julia Henderson
Published by: Materia Collective
Julia Henderson: Producer, Arranger, Lyricist, Vocals, Mix Engineer
Alejandro Hernández: Mastering Engineer
Lorenzo de Sequera: Album Art

Thank you Materia Collective for sending us this album on MP3 to review!

Chrono Trigger is one of those rare games that actually deserves all of the unbridled praise that it gets. It was also a capstone on the total domination by the 1990s Squaresoft during the Super Nintendo era of RPGs, and is an absolute classic still worth playing today. One of the many ways in which Chrono Trigger excelled was in its music.

It's funny; during this era, Nobuo Uematsu was king of the Final Fantasy music empire, and while he did contribute to Chrono Trigger's soundtrack, the majority of the truly memorable tracks came not from him, but from Yasunori Mitsuda's excellent compositions. It is from these that Julia Henderson takes her inspiration in the development of this album.

It is only six tracks, and just over twenty-three and a half minutes long. Thankfully, the price is quite reasonable at only $5 on Bandcamp; at that price, it's well worth it.

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The World Is Square

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

The World Is Square began in 2003 and took over fifteen years to complete by Mustin who is best known as one of the founders of OneUp Studios/The OneUps. This album features classic Square Enix music from hit games like Secret of Mana, Chrono Trigger, Final Fantasy IV, VI, and VII. The eight tracks are given an electronic jazz twist and sound great. There is some creative license, but the songs are still very recognizable.

The songs range from three to over six minutes each. It takes a little over thirty-seven minutes to hear the whole album and I’m always looking for more when it’s finished. The calm and relaxing tracks would make excellent hold music; I certainly wouldn’t mind listening to it while waiting.

The first track is Fear of the Heaven from Secret of Mana. I have to confess that I have not played this game (yet), but the song, acoustic guitar, and vocals are good. Thankfully, I have played all of the Final Fantasy games represented on this album. Final Fantasy IV’s main theme is the second track. One of the most popular songs from Final Fantasy IV, Theme of Love, is the third song. The violin work on this track is exceptional.

Chrono Trigger fans will enjoy Forest Butterflies and From the Bottom. William Carlos Reyes provides the guitar playing for From the Bottom and does an excellent job. We’ve previously reviewed his album Guitar Collections Final Fantasy IV.

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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.

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