Video Games Live! Bonus Round

by: Frank (@FFMXero)

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So, one of your favorite InnerCityGeeks happened to have the chance to attend a video game music concert last weekend. I have a great love for video game music both new and old. These days almost all game music is orchestrated, which is a far cry from the beginning when it was all synthesizers and sound effects. It seems to me that this particular genre is always improving with time and I love every second of this evolution. It’s gotten to the point that one particular video game soundtrack was nominated for a Grammy last year. This is the first time in history that this has happened and I see nothing but improvement from here.

They started doing these concerts for game music I would say about 10 years ago. It started small enough but then grew to become an international phenomenon using full orchestras and choirs to play all kinds of game music. The concert I attended was titled Video Games Live!: Bonus Round. It was performed by the National Symphony Orchestra and Choir and accompanied by Tommy Tallarico on guitar, who composed music for Earthworm Jim and Advent Rising. The reason why it’s titled “Bonus Round” is because they have two other concerts in which they perform specific sets. This time they perform some music from both of those as well as brand new music. The cool thing is that the set lists are selected by fans on their Facebook page. So all of the music heard was pretty well-known and awesome. Another cool thing they included in the program was a large video screen behind the orchestra so that the music being performed went along with scenes from the game they were playing. It was a nice addition and it wasn’t too distracting so you were able to concentrate on the music.

A quick rundown of the set this time around was music from: Castlevania, World of Warcraft Cataclysm, Shadow of the Colossus, Super Smash Bros. Brawl, Journey, Earthworm Jim, Tetris, Mario, The Legend of Zelda, Street Fighter II, Final Fantasy VIII, Skyrim, Chrono Trigger, Chrono Cross, and Portal.

The Castlevania music was a rock medley of “Beginning”, “Wicked Child”, “Vampire Killer”, and “Moonlight Nocturne”. This was a hell of a way to start the show. The orchestra and guitarist were on point.

WoW Cataclysm was the intro music to the expansion of the game. Also really cool because they emulated sounds along with the intro video using instruments.

The Shadow of the Colossus song was “The Opened Way” and went surprisingly well with the video they showed. The piece was beautifully orchestrated and I promptly downloaded the soundtrack after hearing this one song.

For Super Smash Bros. Brawl they did something really cool: they selected four members from the audience to come on stage and play Super Smash Bros. Melee while the orchestra and a vocal soloist performed the main theme to Brawl. It seemed like everything was timed perfectly and it was really awesome to see an orchestra playing while people were playing. Once the track finished it went to sudden death and everyone was cheering the last two people on (including the orchestra). Really great experience and it must’ve been much better actually being on stage.

Next up was the music from Journey. A side note…if you haven’t played Journey, drop what you’re doing and go play it right now. It’s an amazing game and won numerous game of the year awards for 2012. This was also the music soundtrack that was Grammy nominated and rightfully so because the music is beautiful and fits perfectly with what you’re doing in the game. I had never heard of the game until attending this concert and I downloaded the game the next day and fell in love. It’s a short game but it’s wonderful. The music was amazing and another cool thing that happened was that the composer, Austin Wintory, actually flew in from California to conduct the orchestra when they played his music. Great experience and one of the best performances of the night by far until they did…

Earthworm Jim…Tommy Tallarico composed the music for this game and the music to those games were great. It was even better to hear it orchestrated and live. The guitar and orchestral arrangements were bananas and it was all a total eargasm. I didn’t even know that the music was really that good until hearing the medley they performed. It was a medley that spanned both games and the video they showed to accompany it was also really crazy because I almost forgot how hard some of the segments in the game were. This was the surprise hit of the night to me and it was totally insane how well everyone played and how well the track was arranged.

They ended the first half with music from Tetris. The most interesting thing they decided to do with this track was they decided to make it into an opera. They had three soloists singing the story, the choir assisting them and the orchestra playing their asses off. The video they used acted as a visual medium to help tell the story and it was really cool. The only track that they used was the well-known “Tetris A song”. Everything went together so well and it was all awesome.

After a 15 minute intermission, they jumped back into it and they started off with a…

Super Mario Bros. medley. The music that was used in this medley was the main theme, the underwater theme, a brief warp zone interlude, back to the main theme, and ended with the game over theme. Very well done and always nice to hear done by an orchestra.

They kept up with the Nintendo theme and jumped into their longest and most marketed song. It was a Legend of Zelda suite in commemoration of the 25th anniversary of the series. They used music spanning all of the games and put emphasis on the main theme and music from Ocarina of Time, Windwaker, and Twilight Princess. They did a great job with the arrangement and I was very impressed because I am not a big fan of the series, but found myself thoroughly enjoying the music.

Then there was a Street Fighter II medley that consisted of Guile’s theme, Ryu’s theme, and Ken’s theme. Guile’s theme was fitting because there was a meme some years ago dictating that Guile’s theme goes with everything…and it does. I loved hearing these themes orchestrated and once again they did them justice.

Next up was something really awesome: similar to what they did earlier in the night with Smash, they held a Guitar Hero competition before the performance and the winner got called up on stage to play a song while the orchestra accompanied him. That song was “The Pretender” by Foo Fighters. This individual was tasked to score 450,000 points by the end of the song and played on expert. This entire experience was really awesome because there were people cheering him on, a real guitar and orchestra helping him, and anxiety because he had a goal to reach and everyone wanted him to do it. Really cool. Oh, he did it by the way.

After all that was a total surprise for me and the best performance of the night: Liberi Fatali from Final Fantasy VIII. That’s the intro of the game and is regarded as one of the best video game intros of all time. There was no video accompanying this one as the music is that powerful and was something to be enjoyed with no distractions. The orchestra and the choir hit every note just right and it was truly wonderful to see and hear live.

They ended the night with the main theme from Skyrim. This is also another game that has amazing music and was used well with the accompanying video.

They had an encore of the main themes from Chrono Trigger and Chrono Cross and truly ended the night with the ending song from Portal “Still Alive”.

This was one of the best concerts I’ve ever been to and was something that I’ve always been meaning to do but never got the chance. If they come into your town be sure to go and see them because this is top-notch stuff. I give the entire concert a 5 out of 5 because there was honestly not one weak moment. I am seriously recommending going to this show and I will be seeing them again when the opportunity presents itself.

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