Multiplayer: A Tribute to Video Games
Multiplayer: A Tribute to Video Games
July 12, 2014
Download at Loudr
Almost two months ago, the Multiplayer: A Tribute to Video Games album was released by Loudr. It features thirty officially-licensed video game covers from over twenty different cover artists emerging from the YouTube community. The album was compiled to help raise money for Child’s Play Charity, a network organization dedicated to providing support to children in hospitals across the U.S. It features a wide range of games from 80s platformers to current action-adventures, action/fantasy RPGs, and third-person shooters. The musical styles varies just as widely, although the covers do tend to lean towards rock and electric on the whole — not surprising since one of the creators of the project, Ro P (Squiggles1987), is a talented guitarist cover artist himself. However, the album does provide covers from several different styles, and is an absolute delight to listen to straight through, as the massive range of games and cover artists keeps the music from becoming repetitive, as is the case with many individual game scores.
The tracks on the album go from A to Z, as per the challenge issued to the artists who contributed to Multiplayer; each artist received a letter of the alphabet and had to contribute a cover of a track beginning with that same letter. The first 26 songs, then, are tracks beginning with a different letter of the alphabet. Some of the songs can be expected, ranging from Final Fantasy VII‘s “J-E-N-O-V-A”, to “Zelda’s Lullaby”, to Kingdom Hearts: 358/2 Days‘ “Xion’s Theme”. The pleasant surprise came not in the choice of covers, but in the unexpected nature of the styles. For example, Terra Catallo (TeraCMusic) contributed a soft, mellow arrangement of “J-E-N-O-V-A,” very different from its usual frantic pace; it sounds like something the Vitamin String Quartet might have put together, and is an incredibly refreshing arrangement of a generally overplayed, over-covered (albeit great) piece. It’s also happily devoid of those trademark arpeggios that open the original track — a bold decision, certainly, but one that works very well in changing the mood of this particular cover.
En’s Realm used synth and electric abilities to create a 15 minute arrangement of Kingdom Hearts II‘s “Other Promise,” a piece that is generally kept under five minutes, only nearing this length with a few loops. It opens with synthesized orchestral instruments, including an electric piano taking over Roxas’ Theme of the melody, but the piece visits several other musical places including a rock ballad, something nearing metal, and even hits a techno phase before the end. This arrangement does not simply repeat the melody from “Other Promise,” but offers true variations on the chord progression to give the piece very different feelings from beginning to end — while listening to it, I had to check my music library several times to see if I was still on the same song, although at no point did one of the musical shifts feel unnatural. “Zelda’s Lullaby” is performed on the piano by Chris Rigby; traditionally a simple piece with a subdued bassline and gentle, hum-like melody. Yes, it opens with a wild cadenza, which Rigby executes flawlessly without any semblance of effort, but that is quickly over once the melody begins. However, Rigby gives this piece new life with several repeats of the melody using different styles each time, from casual jazz to a rippling classical, each version showing off a different ability in a virtuosic performance of a traditional video game song.
Several other Nintendo gems made it onto the album. Project co-creator Ro P contributed the A track, featuring a couple of different renditions of the “Athletic” themes from the two Super Mario World games with a hard electric guitar-and-drumset combo. Colin McIsaac contributed “Fine Field” from Kirby Triple Deluxe with a variety of high-pitched wind instruments and light percussion and a very mildly jazzy flavor. The Legend of Zelda showed up a couple of other times after Zelda’s Lullaby; Jake McCoy covers “Tal Tal Heights” from Link’s Awakening, shifting between electric and acoustic instruments, and Artificialfear renders a cover of “Hyrule Field” from Twilight Princess, a rather heavy metal version of the traditionally light overworld theme. Pokemon also makes a few appearances; insaneintherainmusic, Ashikodrum, HatTrax and Marc Papeghin combined instrumental talents to contribute an extraordinarily fun and glitzy version of “Pallet Town” from Pokemon Red/Blue/Yellow, with the style of something out of Ruby/Sapphire/Emerald with bright, brassy tones, syncopation, tons of added non-chord tones, and even an interlude with a cadenza-style sax solo. “Ever Grande City” from R/S/E features the album its only swing-style piece, courtesy of xclassicalcatx and Jonathan Parecki on viola and guitar respectively.
Some tracks border on humorous. The G track was given to Bboynoe, who produced a techno track entitled “Glacius Goes With Everything,” covers the iconic “Glacius’ Theme” from Killer Instinct and stays true to the fun, upbeat, and, well, versatile nature of the original track. “Never Ending Adventure,” covered by Dan DeSimone and Michaela Nachigall, features a beautiful acoustic flue-and-guitar duo of the track at the beginning from Dark Cloud 2, but sneaks its way into violin covering “Scars of Time” from Chrono Cross halfway into the song; I was amused at the transition, particularly since I’d thought that I had found the first-ever cover compilation that did not feature this game. However, the cover is a solid one, and it’s hard to not get into “Scars of Time”, particularly a solid cover/mashup. David Erick Ramos delivers a light and whimsical ocarina performance for “Click Clock Wood” from Banjo-Kazooie (a catchy and sometimes underappreciated soundtrack); while there isn’t much interpretation in this cover, Ramos delivers a skillful performance in which he records over himself to create the staccato harmonies almost solely on the ocarina.
Several of the pieces on the album are similar to the catchy, melodic moods that Ramos captures with his cover. However since the album leans towards the electric, they are often realized very differently from the original soundtracks. “Windmill Hut” from Ocarina of Time, covered by DSCAccount, contracts a songlike melody with its waltz rhythm on a heavy electric guitar. “Mad Jack” from Donkey Kong 64 and covered by MetalFortress14 is also on heavy electric guitar, but has a more sinister tune: less whimsical and more driven. MissionGuitar gives us another rock track with a familiar, and frustrating, melody: “Castle” from Super Mario World. This one is slower than the other rock renditions — offering more tension, and less driving pulses — but still filled with energy. Halfway through the piece, we get touches of MissionGuitar’s virtuostic talent with the guitar with some ornamental riffs between phrases of the song. “It Doesn’t Matter,” covered by TheDelRe and Ben Stevens, is the only lyrical track on the album, coming from Sonic Adventure 2, and provides a fun break in the primarily instrumental album. Vocal rock covers can be rough sometimes due to poor sound mixing and editing often drowning out the voice, although the mixing turned out nicely in this cover. TheDelRe has a robust voice and an effective falsetto that carries over the guitar and percussion to deliver a strong performance of this Sonic song.
Despite the electronic nature of most of the album, a few of the tracks still lean more towards the classical spectrum of the album. “Dragon Palace” from Okami hardly feels like a cover with rich, Eastern instruments and scales reflecting the vibrant images from the game. Kristin Naigus’ cover is so skillfully crafted that it’s hard to tell what’s real and what, if anything, is synthesized. “Xion’s Theme” from the Kingdom Hearts series and covered by Jonathan Parecki is one of those performances that sound like they should replace the original from the game. The cover sounds far less synthesized and more three-dimensional because of each of the sounds from the different instruments. The melody is mainly performed on an acoustic guitar, but accompanied by pizzicato percussion, chimes, and light, soaring strings over the melody. The cover is completely true to the original while still reimagining the execution of the various melody lines.
Finally, “9 Years” from 9 Hours, 9 Persons, 9 Doors and covered by ChequerChequer is probably my favorite cover on this album, featuring acoustic guitar and lightly arpeggiated strings. The cover is overall very similar to the original track, but the authentic acoustic guitar completely replaces nineties-style synthesized piano, and the strings are more prominent and pronounced due to the minimized instrumentation. In an album filled with Mario, Kingdom Hearts, and Mega Man, it’s also nice to see some undercovered gems receive some attention. That said, keep in mind that the tracks mentioned above don’t encompass everything on this album, which also features pieces from Assassin’s Creed, Mass Effect, Animal Crossing, Megaman, Earthbound, Castlevania, and several other series and games.
As someone who leans towards classical-style music, the last few songs stood out to me more than the others, but the album as a whole was a true delight to listen to. Listening to so many different interpretations of tracks from so many different games is such a rare treat. I would absolutely recommend purchasing this soundtrack — even if it was only for the donation to Child’s Play Charity, you would still be receiving an unusually large collection of mostly professional-grade covers of really, really good music.
Do you agree with the review and score? Let us know in the comments below!
Posted on August 31, 2014 by Emily McMillan. Last modified on August 31, 2014.