10) Rockman ZX Soundtrack: "ZX Tunes"
Mega Man ZX isn't a highly celebrated installment of the Mega Man series of games. It was a Metroid-style romp that featured two playable characters, each with different modeled suits that they could equip for a myriad of situations. ZX Tunes greatly sharpens the quality of the game's music, offering better samples and higher fidelity. It's hard to go back to Mega Man ZX knowing I'd have to go back to the original soundtrack and not the updated ZX Tunes tracks.
9) Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy
Although several themes of Distant Worlds II: More Music from Final Fantasy have seen orchestrated or otherwise arranged versions before, the ones that are repeated sound as great as ever before. However, the real winners on this orchestrated album of classic Final Fantasy tunes are brand-new arrangements like the fabulously chilling melodic adventure of Dancing Mad, a beautiful and intricate version of Suteki da ne, and the Prima Vista Orchestra, the third-to-last theme on this sensational soundtrack.
We're definitely changing dynamics with this arrange album. F-Zero X's music was composed by Taro Bando, and while the soundtrack were rocking enough with the Nintendo 64's synths, THIS is the real deal. Mad metal, heavy rock, and some incredible percussion add up to make an already excellent soundtrack rip and roar with the best of them. F-Zero X: Guitar Arrange Edition takes the in-your-face songs of the F-Zero soundtrack and makes for an adrenaline-pumping, masterful collection of tunes.
7) MYTH ~ The Xenogears Orchestral Album
One of my favorite soundtracks of all time is from a game I haven't even played the majority of, Xenogears. MYTH is an orchestral album of a handful of select Xenogears tracks. Some are performed by an entire orchestra while others are soloed by a pianist. The version on this album of Small of Two Pieces is breathtaking, and the original vocalist, Joanne Hogg, has returned for it as well, adding even more to the song. Then you have a battle theme that sounds empowering with the help of brass and strings, a town theme that is as catchy as it is warm, and two piano solo pieces that can seriously move the listener. The entire album is a work of musical art and shows the mastery of Yasunori Mitsuda's original compositions from over 15 years ago.
One of a pair of vocal albums of Final Fantasy music (the other being Pray), Love Will Grow was the second release featuring an album full of lyric-filled versions of memorable Final Fantasy themes both popular and underrated. The vocal performances and accompanying orchestra are just phenomenal to listen to, and even if the lyrics are mostly in Japanese save for some English tracks, the music is a language all can understand and appreciate. From the a capella harmonies of Relm's Theme to the title track, Love Will Grow, the whole album is a pleasant one for the ears to enjoy.
While it's not the most popular Final Fantasy game, and definitely the least liked of the PlayStation One trilogy, Final Fantasy VIII has unmistakably magnificent music. The game might not be to everyone's liking, but Nobuo Uematsu brought the proverbial heat. Fithos Lusec Wecos Vinosec is an orchestral album of Final Fantasy VIII themes. There's the songs that come directly from the game, Liberi Fatali and the rather long Ending Theme, but the rest of the album is of orchestrated versions of signature FF8 songs. It's a masterful album that is consistently fantastic, even if the game it's made for isn't beloved by all.
4) The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time - Hyrule Symphony
Take the already stupendous musical styling of Koji Kondo's The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time score, recreate it with the backing of a strings section, and you have my the arranged album that sits at the number four spot on my countdown. The harmonies are simply delightful, the tones are soothing, and the entire arranged album is just a marvelous journey for the listener. From the highs and lows of Kokiri Forest to the adventure of Hyrule Field, this Hyrule Symphony is one that beckons the listener to sit back, relax, and unwind to its heavenly harmony.
3) Smashing... Live!
I was a Sound Test junkie back in the day. This was before I had easy access to video game soundtracks. For instance, I'd sit in the Sound Test of Super Smash Bros. Melee for ages, listening to each theme. It never dawned on me to think on how awesome these themes would be orchestrated. That was until an unassuming issue of Nintendo Power came in the mail with a special gift attached to it, Smashing... Live!, a special performance of Super Smash Bros. Melee's music by a full fledged orchestra. Pretty much every character received representation, and quite so! It's an impressive collection and a celebration of Nintendo's illustrious history in music form. My kind of album!
2) The Black Mages II: The Skies Above
Nobuo Uematsu was the lead composer of the Final Fantasy series, and he formed a band with fellow musicians called The Black Mages. Their debut album was all things battle music of Final Fantasy. Their second album is my personal favorite. While it has a handful of battle themes from the Final Fantasy series, the meat and potatoes, so to speak, of the album was new rocking arrangements of field and dungeon pieces, such as Matoya's Cave. The entire album is without any negative aspect. At least that's how it goes in my book!
1) Mario & Zelda: Big Band Live
Take music from the Super Mario series, The Legend of Zelda series, and Yoshi series, have the primary instruments be those of a jazzy big band and a country jamboree, and you have my pick for greatest arranged video game album. This was a concert performance with a carefree atmosphere done on September 14, 2003. There is a wide range of Mario, Zelda, and Yoshi tunes from Super Mario Bros., Super Mario 64, Super Mario Sunshine, the original Legend of Zelda, The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time, Majora's Mask, and the then-new Wind Waker. It's an album that gives me a pep in my step if I'm walking, and my butt to bouncing if I'm sitting in a chair while listening to it. ...Sorry for any mental picture I just gave you.
Which arranged albums of video game tunes, whether official or not, do you enjoy most? List your faves and perhaps some tracks in the comments below!