Ever since my initial experience with the concert tour during GDC 07, I've been a big fan of the Video Games Live concert series. The combination of classic video game tunes played by a symphony orchestra and classic gaming imagery, both shared with a couple thousand fellow gamers is something that everyone should try to experience at least once. That having been said, I was a bit skeptical regarding a CD release of the music from the event. How could a measly 10-track disc compare to the massive gaming music event? It can't really, but it can give you a better appreciation of the music. Hit the jump for brief, track by track impressions of the Video Games Live Volume One CD.
Kingdom Hearts: See, for me Kingdom Hearts and music spells out Utada Hikaru, so instead of being a strong opening choice for the album, the first entry had me wanting to go listen to "Simple and Clean", and then perhaps "Passion" from Kingdom Hearts II for good measure.
Warcraft Suite: So much of my life has been spent on Warcraft in various forms that this selection evokes a great deal of memories and emotions in me. That's really one of the keys to listening to this CD. If you've played the games you get the 1-2 punch of excellent music and nostalgia. Hell, that's the key to Video Games Live.
Myst Medley: I spent so much time being vexed by puzzles playing through the Myst series that I never really considered the music. This is some very powerful and majestic music. The vocals are particularly elegant and haunting.
Medal of Honour: This is the selection that loses the most during the transition from live performance to CD. During Video Games Live they present this arrangement with a series of touching wartime photos that really drive the music home. Without the photographs it is a still a lovely piece, but it lacks the impact of the full presentation.
Civilisation IV Medley: Very tribal, which is fitting seeing as Civ is all about evolving your tribe into a full-fledged Civilisation. It's like something out of Lion King, only on a much larger scale.
Tetris Piano Op. 1: My only problem with this rendition of the classic Tetris music performed on piano? It's way too short, though I suppose my opinion could be tempered by the fact that I would hear that music for an hour at a time as a young teenager. A minute just doesn't cut it!
God of War Montage: The music in this live recording of the God of War montage is a bit overwhelming...overpowering really. While it works really well while kicking arse in the game, as standalone music it is more likely to kick your ass.
Advent Rising Suite: Quite honestly one of the best pieces on the CD. Tommy Tallarico crafted some truly amazing music for a game that didn't turn out to be nearly as epic as the developers had hoped. Perfect accompaniment for a sweeping space opera.
Tron Montage: And suddenly I'm a little boy in a movie theatre getting his first taste of CGI all over again. Tron played a huge part in getting me into the whole video game thing in the first place, and this piece is a lovely reminder as to why. Almost worth buying the CD for.
Halo Suite: One of the finest pieces of video game music produced over the last decade, arranged in a very pleasing manner, though ever Halo music performance pales in the face of this one.
Castlevania Rock: It's rock! It's live! It's Castlevania! It's been done better elsewhere! Not the strongest closer for the CD, but a pleasant change from the sweeping orchestral bits. Lovely guitar work, but then you'd better damn well bring lovely guitar work to Castlevania, or we're coming for you.
Basically, Video Games Live Volume One is a trade off. While it may not have the raw power and excitement of actually attending one of the concerts, it is much cheaper, and it's a solitary experience. Appreciating music is about interpreting it in your own way, which is hard to do with several thousands fellow gamers screaming before and after every song while a giant screen flashes music-related graphics over your head. While the concert series provides a richer experience as a whole, VGL Volume One allows you and the music to get to know one another.