This week saw the Western release of one of the very best games yet for the PlayStation Vita -- the freewheeling, fantasy superhero game Gravity Rush. This game has so much of what I want in a video game -- it combines the exploration and collection-obsession of Crackdown and Infamous with a uniquely fresh-feeling gravity shifting mechanic.
Best of all, it wraps the whole thing up in Kohei Tanaka's grand, achingly romantic soundtrack, which is easily one of the very best I've heard this year.
This music is a far cry from most video game soundtracks -- it is neither industrial nor "epic" in the traditional sense, and it eschews the typical sorts of sweeping melodies that most video game soundtracks attempt to capture.
Instead, Tanaka's compositions channel old-school Hollywood, with European flourishes placed atop timeless chord progressions and arrangements. It's all put under a thick layer of Django-inspired jazz, conjuring the energy of a bustling, foreign metropolis in the 1930s.
Let's give it a listen, yeah?
"Resistance and Extermination"
This is the main battle theme of Gravity Rush, and it somehow manages to perfectly convey the vibe of the game. Although big, important things are happening. Gravity Rush never succumbs to navel gazing or overseriousness -- it's a game that revels in lightness and fun, even when the fate of the world is at stake.
Also, this tune has the best piano breakdown. Every time this song plays before a fight, I get amped up.
This is the first straight-up jazz tune that plays, and it accompanies the moment when I suspect most players will truly fall in love with Gravity Rush. After finishing a few missions in the first district, the protagonist Kat takes a train to the Pleasure Quarter, and suddenly… it's night, and the lighting is entirely different, and this killer tune begins to play. Soaring around building tops while accompanied by a swinging violin solo… not many other games are this cool, is what i'm saying.
This lush, strolling tune plays at several different points in the campaign and always combines the joy of an afternoon stroll with the vertigo of, you know, being able to fall up. Or down. Or sideways.
Another of the mellower tunes on the soundtrack. This tune could accompany me every time I got to the park, and that'd be just fine with me. A real woodwind highlight, this tune. So good.
Here's one I haven't found in the game yet, but it's so good that I'm listening to it nonstop anyway. Go ahead, clarinetist! If you needed any other reason to get into this soundtrack, know that I've played a ton of this game and haven't even heard this song yet. That's how deep and lovely this soundtrack is. The only bummer is that there's currently no way for American gamers to buy it. Rest assured that as soon as there is, I'll post it here.
I'm heartened every time I see a soundtrack as distinctive and grand as this one attached to a game from a major studio. 2012 has already been a hell of a year for video game music (I mean: Right??), but truly, Gravity Rush stands tall with the very game music not just of the year, but stretching back much farther than that.
That dancing piano, that tiptoeing harp; those soaring strings. Yes.