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[Comments] (5) Video Game Soundtrack Medleys: Sumana was watching one of those videos where people play medleys of classic video game soundtracks on non-electronic instruments. I think this time it was a string quartet. Not to get all Viral Video Film School on you, but after watching a number of these videos I've discovered the two essential ingredients to a video game soundtrack medley:

Other than that, you can do whatever you want. I was trying to figure out the value proposition here--do people like these videos because the songs are great, or is it just nostalgia? A question with an obvious answer, and I'm not even gonna try to be contrarian: some of the songs are legitimately great, but it's nostalgia.

Argument one: some of the songs are in fact terrible. The Legend of Zelda overworld theme is in most of these medleys, and it's a bad song. It's a theme with no variations, an annoying ripoff of Ravel's famously annoying Bolero (I believe they wanted to use Bolero but couldn't get the rights.) No one enjoys that song except insofar as it makes them think of a fun game.

Second, these videos are videos, and they often have some prop-comedy component where people cosplay and/or act out scenes from the games. Nobody does that for other music performances. Maybe they should, but they don't. (I gotta make an exception for Frank Zappa, who often did strange things while conducting.)

But the reason I started seriously wondering about this is that none of these medleys have any songs from the original Metroid game. Why is that? It's a very well-known game from the same era and the same publisher as the first Zelda and Mario games. It's got one of the best and deepest soundtracks in video game history. So why not include it? Maybe because it's a little more hardcore than Mario and Zelda, so it won't give as many people the nostalgic thrill.

Similarly for the Mega Man series, which no one would deny had excellent music, albeit more poppy and less classical (but therefore more accessible) than Metroid. The password entry theme from MM3 came up on our media player today and we were transfixed. The password entry theme, folks. Anyway, a big-name game with great music, but a little too hardcore to push the average person's nostalgia buttons.

You don't watch these videos to be exposed to new music. I'm not expecting people to put songs from Earthbound in their video game soundtrack medleys (though they should). But I think if you put some Metroid in your medley you'd be pleasantly surprised by the audience reaction.

I did find one excellent live performance of Metroid music. It doesn't fit my theory because it's 1) not a medley, and 2) full of synths and electric guitars, but on the plus side it features composer Hip Tanaka himself--I think that's him on lead guitar. I guess that's pure upside, there.

PS: I declare the comments a place to link to or cite cool reinterpretations of video game music. I'll start with this well-known but awesome acoustic version of the Wind Waker title theme.


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