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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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Posted by Fafner at Fri Aug 14 2009 23:06

About a quarter of the many gigs of music files I've downloaded from Overclocked Remix are Metroid themes. The other three quarters are a mix of Mario, Zelda (yeah, I know), miscellaneous (including a beautiful one from Silent Hill featuring the nay. I've never even played Silent Hill, but I love that song), Castlevania, and the Wizards and Warriors theme, which was a freakishly problematic game with some kickass music.

Posted by Leonard at Sat Aug 15 2009 10:37

Wow, that's an amazing site!

Posted by Eric Fischer at Sat Aug 15 2009 14:40

I don't know if it's what you're looking for, but The Advantage's first CD has two Megaman songs (Flashman and Dr. Wiley Stage). No Metroid though.

Posted by Zen at Sun Aug 16 2009 13:37

Metroid may be one of the "core three" franchises, but it never gets the same universal love. The first game was really hard, and the series never caught on in Japan in any significant way. Kirby is a much more prominent brand for Nintendo.

Also, despite its quality, Metroid's music was always too atmospheric to catch people this way. I think the hardcore feel and slow build are the reasons why you mostly only find Metroid music done by metal bands. Which is never that much fun.

Posted by kirkjerk at Mon Aug 17 2009 11:25

Metroid's music is a bit more nebulous, isn't it? More moody and ambient.

I always really dig the underworld SMB theme.


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