Metal Gear 25th Anniversary Music Collection
Metal Gear 25th Anniversary Music Collection (Metal Gear 25th Anniversary -Metal Gear Music Collection-)
Konami Digital Entertainment
August 22, 2012
Buy at CDJapan
2012 marked several huge anniversaries in the world of video games. We celebrated 40 years of Pong, no doubt the industry’s first major hit. We celebrated 20 years of the super-cute Kirby and the super-violent Mortal Kombat, two important franchises aimed at entirely different demographics of gamers. This was the year that many game franchises hit a quarter of century. We celebrated 25 years of Castlevania, Contra, Mega Man, Final Fantasy, and Street Fighter, as well as the 25-year success of a little game series called Metal Gear. A landmark in graphics, cinematic presentation, and the use of post-modern storytelling narrative; the effect Hideo Kojima’s stealth game series had on the industry was nothing short of groundbreaking. Taking inspiration from many of Hollywood’s classics and rivaling the narratives of many films and novels, Metal Gear truly is one of the most unique video game franchises in existence.
After years of development and great controversy surrounding its production, Metal Gear Solid V: The Phantom Pain was finally released to players across the world on September 1, 2015 and is supposedly the last Metal Gear game to be directed by Kojima. Regardless if that holds true, MGSV opened to grand critical acclaim and brought the 28-year-old narrative full circle alongside innovative open-world gameplay that was praised as being the pinnacle of the series. But to celebrate Metal Gear‘s quarter century milestone from three years ago, Konami released a 25th Anniversary soundtrack that contained music selections from Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots and Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker. Serving as a companion to the 20th Anniversary music collection from 2007, does Konami deliver the next anthology that fans have been waiting for? Let’s find out.
The first track, “Overture ~ Metal Gear Saga,” begins with a brassy motif. This brief section smoothly transforms into “Metal Gear Saga,” a re-orchestration of the series’ second main theme. Due to allegations of plagiarism, Harry Gregson-Williams replaced the original track with a re-worked melody that first appeared in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater. In the end though, this is the best that it’s ever sounded. Beginning with a buildup of the chorus and orchestra, the strings begin moving at a faster pace at 1:10 until the main theme explodes into action. The melody is performed exceptionally, with fast paced-rhythms, synchronized beats, and expertly played string lines. At 2:15, the rhythm slows down for a bit, with all sections adding tension until the main theme returns, being handed down from section to section until 3:40. Here, a solo guitar is given its chance to shine with its own sad recreation of the cue. The theme is later joined by a lamenting solo trumpet with percussion, creating a patriotic feel. The trumpet proceeds to lead this piece to its proud end. The most epic version of the new Metal Gear Solid main theme, once again Harry Gregson-Williams has proven his superb talents.
“Love Theme -25th Anniversary Ver-” is an adaptation of the music that accompanied the prologue of Metal Gear Solid 4. The solo violin dominates the majority of this piece, with its sad and depressing melody being a permeating element. It is paired with an equally melancholic orchestra backing that adds to the game’s dismal pathos. By the minute and a half mark, the vocalist Jackie Presti joins in with her distinctive, wailing voice. The Hebrew lyrics by Hideo Kojima himself provide Middle Eastern-flavorings to this track. The violin and orchestra continue to play their sad themes, until they join in unison at the three and a half minute mark, before Presti returns. Returning composer Nobuko Toda has made some minor changes from the original version that improve the dramatic flow. At 4:50, the acoustic guitar is given its own solo section — more elaborate and Spanish-influenced in this version than the original — before the rest of the orchestra. Presti and the solo violin conclude the piece. A sad lament, “Love Theme” perfectly captures the old and dying nature of series protagonist Solid Snake. As stated in the introduction, “War, has changed.”
For this album, two brand new orchestral medleys were recorded by the City of Prague Philharmonic Orchestra. The first, dedicated to Metal Gear Solid 4, explores the various themes of the game. The second, dedicated to Metal Gear Solid: Peace Walker, follows a similar format. If you’re familiar with Konami’s previous 20th anniversary album, then you know what to expect here: great orchestrations of original themes from the series. What’s even better, Konami was able to get a professional orchestra to record these tracks, providing the technicality these themes deserve. The first half of the MGS4 medley starts off with the atmospheric “Old Snake”, shifting from a melancholic guitar introduction into a bold orchestral rendition. It continues with various other cinematic themes — “Midnight Shadow,” “Guns of the Patriots,” and “Desperate Escape” — all of which capture the serious mood and bittersweet emotions of the game. At around halfway, the medley takes a slower tempo and we revisit “Enclosure,” which was originally used in the original Metal Gear Solid. Following a somewhat unnecessary reprise of the previously-featured “Metal Gear Saga,” the final theme presented is the touching “Father and Son,” which reflects upon the relationship between Solid Snake and Big Boss.
The Peace Walker medley begins with its blockbuster-style main theme. It sounds better than ever, with the City of Prague bringing the most out of the booming brass melodies and racing string motifs. The shifts to the slow, brooding “The Spear” and the mournful “Love Deterrence” are somewhat abrupt, though increase the dramatic range of the medley. The guitar-based rendition of the latter is simply beautiful, as it tells of the conflicting feelings of a central in-game character. At 5:03, the tempo gets faster as we shift into a battle theme which was used during the many Metal Gear boss fights during the game. The final portion of this medley is a faithful orchestration of the game’s main vocal theme “Heaven’s Divide.” Overall, both medleys are splendidly arranged by Nobuko Toda and are greatly benefited from the strong performances of the orchestra.
The Metal Gear series is well known for its vocal themes, two of which are included here in unchanged renditions from the soundtracks. The first is Metal Gear Solid 4‘s “Here’s to You,” which was originally from Ennio Morricone’s Italian film score Sacco e Vanzetti. Lisbeth Scott’s vocal performance is generally strong, having a spiritual and emotional quality, without being melodramatic. However, the song does suffer from repetition due to the limited lyrics. To get around this, Gregson-Williams gives focus to the background orchestra and much more instrumentation is added in as the theme develops. This gives the piece effective build up to its impassioned conclusion. The second theme, “Heaven’s Divide,” is among the best in the series. Composer Akihiro Honda ticks all the boxes with the song: the melody and harmonies pack quite a punch, the instrumentation provided by the strings, acoustic guitar, and piano is fantastic, and the lyrics are well-written and fit with the game’s themes. Special praise must be given to Donna Burke’s incredible performance, her voice skillfully transitioning between soft and powerful exactly when the piece demands it. The mixing between vocals and instrumentation is extremely well done, making it one of the most memorable vocal themes ever accomplished in any video game. Unfortunately, Nana Mizuki’s anime-style pop vocal theme “Love’s Deterrence” is not included here (despite being in the orchestral medley), likely due to licensing issues.
The last three tracks are special compilation pieces. One of these is dedicated to MGS4’s now-defunct online multiplayer service with “Metal Gear Online Tribute Medley.” Similar to the soundtrack of the main game, Metal Gear Online features militaristic orchestral music mixed in with elements of electronica. The synth here is of high quality and does not at all feel out of place on this album. Although I didn’t really find anything special or noteworthy, it is a plus that portions of the music are still available in this format for the first time.
Next we have “GEM Impact Tracks,” consisting of the musical work from the audio production studio of the same name, founded by series’ veteran composer Norihiko Hibino. For this medley, the best pieces of cinematic music were taken from MGS4 and slightly spruced-up. A particular emphasis is placed on the contrast between the formidable “Everything Ends” and the relieving “Everything Begins.” But GEM Impact’s presence here somewhat disappoints after their incredible contributions on the 20th Anniversary album — spanning the rockestral rendition of “Zanzibar Breeze” to a tear jerking jazz improvisation based on Metal Gear Solid 2: Sons of Liberty. Finally we have “Alerts and Cautions.” With a series revolving around sneaking, stealth is critical. The caution tracks are more slower-paced and ambient, to to convey the sense of tension of hiding from enemy troops. When Snake gets caught, the music instantly changes to faster tempo and the strings play a more prominent role when the action heats up. Although a good medley piece, I find it an odd way to close off the album and the lack of true arrangements is regrettable.
One could hardly call this a “definitive” series music collection as it only contains selections from Metal Gear Solid 4 and Peace Walker. While it lacks somewhat in terms of pacing and features no real arrangements apart from the orchestral pieces, there is still plenty of great music to be found here. Nearly all the best themes from the two games are presented, while the vocal themes are some of the most memorable in the series. And of course, the orchestral medleys are fantastic. Pair it with the 20th anniversary collection, and then you have the ultimate listening experience. On it’s own though, it gets my recommendation regardless if one is a diehard or casual fan of the series. Having listened to both dozens of times, I can honestly say that there’s very little to complain about either way. Here’s to you Metal Gear, and to another 25 years.
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Posted on September 7, 2015 by Oliver Jia. Last modified on September 12, 2015.