Whether it be an obscure title that has been long overlooked, or one that failed to impress when released, these are the misfits in the retro gaming library that all have one thing in common: wicked soundtracks. Some of them are actually pretty decent games, others not so much. So here is a small list of titles along with samples of the great unappreciated scores of the video game medium!
Journey to Silius (NES)
What would be an article about game soundtracks without mentioning a Sunsoft game? Journey to Silius was originally intended to be based on the 1984 film The Terminator but lost the licensing rights during development. It’s a side-scrolling run and gun shooter set in a futuristic setting. No, not like Contra, or as good either, but still very playable, with good control, attractive graphics and different weapons to collect that add variety to the action. Course it wouldn’t be worth mentioning at all if it wasn’t for its sensational soundtrack, which utilized that ‘sunsoft bass’ Sunsoft titles were renown for.
Journey to Silius Title Theme:
Werewolf: The Last Warrior (NES)
Like most games back in the 8-bit era, story-lines were usually either non-existent or non-sensical, and Werewolf: The Last Warrior was the latter. Apparently, a scientist named Dr. Faryan created a bunch of ‘bio-monsters’ that have imprisoned nearly all of humanity on earth (instead of more conveniently enslaving them or eliminating them) and it’s up to one man to stop him, who happens to have the cool ability to turn into a werewolf with blade arms. It’s a pretty standard action platformer with a few frustrating elements, but it has some cool cut-scenes spliced between gameplay, and a pretty intense soundtrack to go with it. The main theme is particularly memorable, how it builds up into an intense beat that gets you really pretty pumped, especially when watching the cut-scene depicting your character transform for the first time.
Werewolf form theme:
Spider-Man and the X-Men in Arcade’s Revenge (SNES)
Wow, with its awesome intro music when one first boots up Arcade’s Revenge a young impressionable gamer expects nothing less than greatness, especially when featuring such cool characters such as Spider-Man, Wolverine, Gambit and Storm, but alas the frustrating gameplay hardly lives up to its elaborate soundtrack. Tragically Arcade’s Revenge is not fondly remembered by old gamers, and for many good reasons; with mediocre graphics, uninspired level design, gameplay which failed to capitalize on its license, and a punishing difficulty to top it off. But man is its music ever so cool though, composed by Tim Follin, who had a reputation for being a technical wizard at manipulating limited sound hardware to create ambitious compositions. It really makes one wish its soundtrack was featured in a much better game.
Spider-Man and the X-Men Title Theme:
J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings Volume 1 (SNES)
Interplay, best known for creating the Fallout series and publishing the Baldur’s Gate series tried their hand at ambitiously adapting Tolkien’s fantasy epic for the Super Nintendo. Unfortunately Interplay’s Lord of the Rings is in no way comparable to the likes of Enix’s or Squaresoft’s much more remarkable efforts. With tedious gameplay further marred by awful buddy A.I., tiny lackluster graphics and an over abundance of fetch quests, Lord of the Rings is a pretty derivative title that is unsurprisingly forgotten. Greatly shadowed by the system’s many other exceptional RPG games. However, its soundtrack is superb, featuring sophisticated compositions that would do Nobou Uematsu proud. Its pleasant Celtic styled tracks are unique and subtly powerful, invoking mystical themes which appropriately compliments Tolkien’s fantasy setting.
Lord of the Rings Title Theme:
The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin (Sega CD)
The Amazing Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin was an enhanced remake of the original game that was released on the Sega Genesis, which was a pretty decent Spider-man game at the time. The enhanced Sega CD re-release boasted numerous new cool additions, such as non-linear gameplay which allowed you to select a variety of different stages over a map of New York City, along with additional bosses, cheesy animated cut-scenes, and of course a rockin’ soundtrack composed by Spencer Nilsen and featuring the American band ‘Mr. Big’. The majority of the musical score features a lot of heavy rock, which sounded awesome thanks in part to the Sega CD’s ability to play CD quality music. It may be arguable if the music appropriately fits in with a Spider-man type of game, but it can’t be denied that it attractively features energetic tempos and beats along with some sensational guitar riffs!
The Amazing Spider-Man Track 10:
The Terminator (Sega CD)
The Sega CD may be criticized for being an overly expensive peripheral which provided little innovation to playing video games, but it certainly was cool to at least experience games with musical quality that was comparable to a film score. The Terminator is a competent side-scrolling shooter if not unexceptional, which happens to also uniquely feature a powerful soundtrack, co-composed by Tommy Tallarico who is quite a big name composer who has won numerous industry awards for his work. From intense rock, to alternative and synth; ranging from upbeat triumphant style of compositions to more brooding and dramatic themes, which appropriately fits in with the game’s bleak looking enviroments inspired from the movie. It is also the only game to actually feature the film’s theme music. The Terminator on the Sega CD is considered by some to be the best playable adaptation made.
Track 2 – Taking to the Air:
Alien Trilogy (Playstation)
Although another one of the shameless and countless Doom clones that incorporated the respected Alien license, Alien Trilogy wasn’t really a bad game, but it was nothing particularly special either. Fans did appreciate the movie-like environments and atmosphere, but even at the time the game-play wasn’t particularly engaging, especially when shooting at what looked like cardboard cut-out sprites. However, like the rest of the titles listed here there is one feature that is worth mentioning. With a blend of synth, industrial, and ambiance, Alien Trilogy gives host to a subtly powerful soundtrack that marriages with the game’s dark futuristic environments. With intense, trance-like beats, along with improvised sounds such as heartbeats, unnatural breathing and beeps, its soundtrack is very effective at enhancing the game’s already unsettling atmosphere.
Track 7 – Narrow and Expansive:
Mega Man X6 (Playstation)
Considered by some fans as the turning point in the series were it began its decline. Mega Man X6 gave a lot of mixed feelings when it was released, especially how the previous title X5 seemed to have concluded the on-going story-line. Arguably the series did seem a little exhausted at this point, with little refinement to its established game-play, except for the implementation of the ‘Nightmare System,’ which frustrated some gamers. Even its soundtrack received criticism, for not being on par with the more rock focused style of its predecessors, which may be the one point that was a bit overcritical. Although its true that its soundtrack is a little different than usual from the series with more focus on synth and alternative. It still retains some rock, and strangely a pinch of celtic music as well. It definitely is not the best Mega Man soundtrack, but it definitely does have its high points.
Commander Yammark Stage: