As a devout fan of Ska music I’m generally kept as far away from anything music related as possible. Oh they can deny the angelic sound of Ska to a point but it always finds a way, hell it managed to get into cult favorite Incredible Crisis! That game is a fine example of music used effectively in games, it perfectly fits the silly tone and like condiments and pizza toppings it enhances the overall experience. And while my taste in music is the frequent subject of mockery at my expense, even one such as I can appreciate when music is done right. Here are some of my favorite moments.
Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas
Welcome to the Jungle by Guns-n-Roses
I’m not sure if this was scripted or not and frankly I don’t care to look it up since I can’t remember the mission it’s in, but it’s one of the early ones where you are riding on a motorcycle with Big Smoke shooting back at the dozens of people shooting at you. While all this was happening the radio was just starting on the build up of Welcome to the Jungle, finally hitting the guitars right when we launched off a ramp. It’s such a glorious moment that the reason I refuse to look it up is because I prefer to think of it as something that just came together. What’s strange to me is that the game was advertised with this song despite most of the other music and overall tone of the game being early 90’s gangsta rap. That may be an entirely different discussion though.
Red Dead Redemption
Dead Man’s Gun by Ashtar Command
I loved Red Dead Redemption but not for the reasons I expected to. The hype train almost had it painted as what Skyrim turned out to be but set in the wild west. A lot of those pumped up little features they liked to talk about weren’t as much of a focus when it actually came out sadly but the game was still solid and had dozens of memorable moments thanks to whats one of my favorite video game storys. Even better is its off-the-wall DLC expansion about zombies, unicorns, bigfoots, and an exceedingly racist shopkeeper. Even though its an old game I’m not quite comfortable spoiling the story but suffice to say near the very end when the game turns up the music volume to play “Dead Man’s Gun” was a brilliantly executed scene. The song’s lyrics perfectly capture the theme of the game and the feeling of the character at that point in the story. Red Dead Redemption also has my favorite video game ending of this generation. Again, no spoilers, but if you haven’t played it by now you are doing yourself a disservice.
Mr. Crowley by Ozzy Osbourne
Brutal Legend is a game about music. Metal music to be exact and the insane but awesome world it lives in. Guitar’s make lightning attacks and solos summon powerful magic spells. The world of Brutal Legend appealed to me in a strange way probably because the whole thing looked like one of my friend’s basement; speakers everywhere, sound foam, chrome car parts, and some gruesome unkempt animals laying about. Brutal Legend had some mixed reception but I found it to be an enjoyable experience and the best use of Jack Black in a long time. It did a better job at capturing the feeling of Tenacious D than the actual Tenacious D movie. It also just came out on Steam for pretty cheap along with all its DLC included, pick it up if you can. Anyway, the plot of the games second half is explained in a scene that is synced up to the organ music intro and opening verses of Ozzy Osbourne’s “Mr. Crowley” and even thought the character in focus during the song is a girl once again the song choice really sells the scene. Again trying to avoid spoilers.
Final Fantasy 6
The Opera Scene
This scene is so great it’s pretty much mandatory to include on any list of great video game moments, music related or otherwise. Final Fantasy used to be all about a big production. Big graphics, extravagant music, and complex stories, generally things not associated with something so limiting as the SNES. But that didn’t stop Squaresoft and we got moments like this. About halfway through the game you end up at an Opera that your party uses as a ploy to get the games airship. A normal game would have gone straight to the action as soon as possible but not Final Fantasy. No, they actually play the song and show the lyrics. These days we almost expect such quality from games but back when everything looked and sounded all blocky this was a pretty big deal. These days in Final Fantasy the song would probably be some J-Pop number but I shouldn’t say such things, not when we are talking about something so beautiful as this scene.
I know there are some others out there that I could have talked about. Earthbound comes to mind and really has some glorious music that could make for an entire article all its own. My old favorites in the Quest for Glory series kicked off your adventures with a rousing march. Metroid and Castlevania both have great soundtracks and in Metroid Primes case a really subtle one that made the games lonely feel. Point is, like condiments, well placed music in a game can take something that’s already good and make it into something great. The exception of course being J-Pop, nothing goes better with J-Pop, the parts of Kingdom Hearts that use it are only semi-tolerable and pale in comparison to the scenes with orchestra or piano music.
Kimo is a contemptuous old coot. With experience in video games dating back to 1988 and a schizophrenic range of games he boasts an impressive range of knowledge of gamings best, and worst. Dwelling in the desolate wastes of the American Midwest he brings to Z1Gaming a perspective that looks for positive qualities in even the worst games.