Not always being up to date with the latest consoles has allowed me to recently indulge in some forgotten video games that were true favourites growing up. Playing the games now has allowed my enjoyment to move beyond the games themselves to appreciate the effort put into their creation with, of course, a specific focus on the brilliant and awesome soundtracks that went towards the atmosphere and subsequent nostalgia. It would be impossible to go into depth about every game that was a part of my childhood so instead I have chosen four soundtracks from PlayStation 2 games that I hope bring back good memories for some of you as well.
Although this soundtrack review is in no particular order, the Kingdom Hearts games have always been very close to my heart and will forever remain my ultimate favourite series. For anyone who has not played any of the older games or joined the hype for the long-awaited release of Kingdom Hearts III, the basis of the game is a clashing of Disney and Final Fantasy characters on a journey following Sora, Donald and Goofy as they fight to defeat the Heartless. Creative and fun gameplay aside, Kingdom Hearts opens up with ‘Simple and Clean’ and I can swear no other song will get you as hyped up for a game you have never played. Written and performed by Hikaru Utada, the track played during the opening cutscene of Kingdom Hearts is a shortened version of the PLANITb Remix and quickly sets the otherworldly, dreamlike tone of the game. If you find the remix is not quite to your liking, the game rounds off with the original version of ‘Simple and Clean’, tying everything to together in a beautiful symmetry whilst also allowing you to truly appreciate the simple and sweet lyrics floating on a much softer sound.
The Silent Hill series has gone down in history as the template for how a horror game is meant to be done. Through subtly disturbing visuals, clever use of graphic restrictions and a genius focus on both its use of sound and silence, the franchise still haunts my nightmares today with goosebumps rising from both fear and excitement every time that main theme loads up. Sound director, Akira Yamaoka, set out with the goal of using industrial, downtempo and rock to evoke specific feelings from players such as urgency, displeasure and deep disturbance. The main theme from the first game (Silent Hill) combines all these feelings through its slightly off kilter western styling and is instantly recognisable for the hairs it raises. Later games, such as Silent Hill: Homecoming, moved more towards the composition of rock songs like ‘One More Soul to the Call’, a low tempo guitar focused track with Evanescence like vibes through the haunting vocals provided by Mary Elizabeth McGlynn.
A game that may have only gathered a cult following, Primal allowed you to explore the deep and chaotic world of the Nexus with Jen and Scree through four worlds aligned with either order or chaos but all being infested by the demon Abaddon’s evil. Primal is built on grit and badass combat that is punctuated by the heavy metal sound of the band 16Volt, an industrial rock band featuring Eric Powell. The nine songs they contributed to the game are jarring when enemies attack out of no where but quickly put you in the mood to kick some demon ass and have you looking forward to the next time they try their luck. Although released in 2003, 16Volt created a soundtrack plucked from the underground of 90s rock that could just as easily be paired with Buffy the Vampire Slayer by the feelings of power and determination it evokes.
Tony Hawk’s Underground
Unlike the other games previously mentioned, this instalment in the Tony Hawk’s Underground series had a soundtrack made up of previously released songs ranging from the late 70s to the early 2000s. Whilst the genres of the songs fell into rock, punk and hop hip they all shared a common vibe that contributed to the underdog to superstar skater story and was loaded enough to keep you playing for hours without hearing the same song twice. One of the best features of the game was the ability to choose which song you wanted to play and I’m sure I played Kiss’s ‘Rock ‘n’ Roll All Night’ enough times to last me the entire game. The soundtrack of Tony Hawk’s Underground can be described as nostalgia to the extreme through its use of songs that already had a hook in people’s memories and using them in a way that created a whole new generation of nostalgia.
Of course, there are other game soundtracks that have the same ability to send you back in time from a simple note or guitar riff but these were the few I found myself listening to a lot during my childhood. Which game soundtracks have the same power over you?
By Skye W.Winwood